Friday, September 27, 2013
But in the meantime, I'm privileged to share today my review of Elizabeth Gilbert's breathtaking, fiercely alive historical novel, The Signature of All Things, which I read on behalf of the Chicago Tribune. The review starts like this, below, and carries forward here.
The photo above is of The Woodlands, a slice of land upon which much of the action in this novel takes place.
Success is a glory, a phenomenon, a sly intoxication. It is also a haunting, a probable curse. For how is one to dream beyond the answered dream? How might one recalibrate the very idea of ambition? Write again with urgency? Success is binding and so, too, is historical fiction. All those facts to get right. All those anachronisms to guard against. All that information. Writers of historical novels must be endlessly curious, and fierce. They must engage the reader on every page and win the battle against asphyxiating doubt. If Elizabeth Gilbert, known until now for her mega-memoir “Eat Pray Love,” was ever haunted by any of these questions, her raucously ingenious new novel, “The Signature of All Things,” has shoved any doubt in the closet and bolted the door. “Signature” is not just an historical novel that spans two centuries and many geographies. It's a 500-page novel of ideas — a book about universal biological theory, the study of moss, the cultivation of quinine, the painting of orchids and the people who do these things with passion.