Sneak Peak: The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

I’m working to get into a rhythm with this posting, and I’d like to dedicate Mondays to a short snippet of whatever I happen to be reading. Today, my Sneak Peak comes from The Signature of All Things, the latest from the lovely Elizabeth Gilbert. I discovered her with Eat, Pray, Love, and followed her straight through to Committed. While I’m slightly ashamed to say I haven’t read any of her fiction until now, I’m completely enthralled with this book as well. What I’m finding most exciting about this book are her descriptions.

The book opens with a kind of background of Alma Whittaker, the fierce young protagonist of the book. Her father, Henry, has made a name for himself in botany, in a feat of entrepreneurship that would inspire many young startup-hopefuls today. Henry, in my mind, believes firmly in the addage If you can’t work with them, beat them at their own game.

Henry was not handsome. He was certainly not refined. In all truth, there was something of the village blacksmith about his ruddy face, his large hands, and his rough manners. To most eyes, he appeared neither solid nor credible. Henry Whittaker was an impulsive, loud, and bellicose man, who had enemies all over the world. He had also become, in the past years, a bit of a drinker.

Sounds like quite the catch, right? Fortunately for him, he did snare the eye of a youngish Beatrix van Devender:

She was neither plain nor pretty, which seemed just about right for a wife. She was stout and boomless, a perfect little barrel of a woman, and she was already rolling toward spinsterhood when Henry met her. To most suitors’ tastes, Beatrix van Devender would have appeared dauntingly overeducated. She was conversant in five living languages and two dead ones, with an expertise in botany equal to any man’s. Decidedly, this woman was not a coquette. She was no ornament of the drawing room. She dressed in the full spectrum of colors that one associates with common house sparrows. She nursed a hard suspicion of passion, exaggeration, and beauty, putting her confidence only in that which was solid and credible, and always trusting acquired wisdom over impulsive instinct. Henry perceived her as a living slab of ballast, which was precisely what he desired.

I, myself, may be a bit suspicious of a man who not only thought of me as “a living slab of ballast,” but who liked me that way. That being said, the two married and begat Alma, a girl described as “her father’s daughter”:

Ginger of hair, florid of skin, small of mouth, wide of brow, abundant of nose. This was a rather unfortunate circumstance for Alma, although it would take her some years to realize it.

There’s a particular scene in Alma’s childhood that I soared while reading, but I won’t give that away; you’ll have to read it for yourselves. The Signature of All Things is my Book of the Week this week, so stay tuned for the review to be posted Friday.


About katepadilla

I write for the Spencer Daily Reporter in Spencer, Iowa. I keep blogs lifebythebooks, Save Me, San Francisco, and Beauty and Beast Buy a House. I'm also hard at work writing a short story collection inspired by the music of Train.

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