The Signature of All Things is epic in scope as it spans the life of Henry Whittaker from a thieving child to the wealthiest man in Philadelphia and the long life of his daughter Alma. The story also travels the globe, from England and America and Amsterdam to Tahiti and the jungles of the world. It addresses topics as varied as botany, masturbation, insanity, homosexuality, religion, sacrifice, abolition and family relationships. In spite of its large and beautiful scope, at its core it’s the story of Alma, a lonely woman struggling to know and be known. Unfortunately for Alma, she was born an unattractive woman with far too much intellectual curiosity for the age. Desiring love, she instead spends much of her life being content in taking care of her father and his estate while she studies mosses. Ultimately travelling the globe in the desire to understand, she finally finds what she seeks, but not in the way in which we’ve come to expect. Romance is not to be in her cards, but she can finally be known and loved instead for her mind, for her knowledge and brilliant insights. The book is very lyrical, the words seem to sing, making it an enjoyable and engrossing read. There are parts of the middle of the book that are almost too odd, but I powered through them, still anxious to find out what happened to Alma and whether she would find what she sought.
“You see, I have never felt the need to invent a world beyond this world, for this world has always seemed large and beautiful enough for me. I have wondered why it is not large and beautiful enough for others– why they must dream up new and marvelous spheres, or long to live elsewhere, beyond this dominion… but that is not my business. We are all different, I suppose. All I ever wanted was to know this world. I can say now, as I reach my end, that I know quite a bit more of it than I knew when I arrived. Moreover, my little bit of knowledge has been added to all the other accumulated knowledge of history– added to the great library, as it were. That is no small feat, sir. Anyone who can say such a thing has lived a fortunate life.”
Title: The Signature of All Things Author: Elizabeth Gilbert Genre: Fiction Pages: 512 Publication: Viking Adult, October 2013
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books. And who doesn’t love lists??
So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten worlds from books that we wouldn’t want to live in. The first part of the list was easy, I’ve haven’t met many dystopian societies that have much to recommend them… After that it got a little tricky since I don’t read a lot of books that take place in different worlds so I included some that take place in times/places that I wouldn’t want to live in.
- Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins – There’s nothing good about a world that pits teenagers in a televised contest to the death.
- Delirium series by Lauren Oliver – Love as a disease? Not cool…
- Divergent series by Veronica Roth – Being forced to choose a faction, serums that affect your brain, fighting, death – doesn’t sound like all that much fun to me.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry – While things do improve some, eventually, in later books, who wants to live in a world without color, beauty, memory, emotion?
- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – Iceland in the early nineteenth century is brutal enough before you consider the whole beheading thing…
- Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore – Disgusting aliens shooting up everything and trying to take over the planet so they can ultimately destroy it – need I say more?
- Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien – Lots of fighting and really repulsive creature hanging around in creepy places.
- I Am A Man by Joe Starita – Being a Native American in this country in the nineteenth century is not something I would recommend.
- Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra – Taking place throughout the wars in Chechnya, the brutality and poverty and fear are heartbreaking.
- A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park – The story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, this heartbreaking tale brings forward this horrific war and its effect on the innocent and the children in the country.
Lowland tells the story of two brothers in Calcutta, born fifteen months apart but inseparable throughout their childhood. Subhash, the eldest, is a dutiful son, studious and serious and devoted to his parents. Udayan is wild and willful, full of mischief and daring, and when he becomes embroiled in a rebellion in India, Subhash can no longer follow him. Instead, he heads to Rhode Island to become a scholar and a researcher. When Udayan suffers a terrible fate, Subhash heads back to India to try to heal his family, including Udayan’s young bride Guari.
What follows is a tale full of longing and loneliness and a quest for understanding and forgiveness. Beautifully told, not all of the characters are likeable, but they all are heartbreakingly understandable. In their grief, Subhash’s mother can be cold and cruel, but you cry out for her pain and her inability to heal. Even Guari, who you want to slap, you eventually can feel sympathy towards as she lives a life of self-imposed loneliness. And Subhash, poor Subhash, who has tried to do everything right and seen everything go so horribly wrong, for him you just wish some semblance of peace and happiness.
“Most people trusted in the future, assuming that their preferred version of it would unfold. Blindly planning for it, envisioning things that weren’t the case. This was the working of the will. This was what gave the world purpose and direction. Not what was there but what was not.”
Title: The Lowland
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publication: Knopf, September 2013