Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest offering might be a daunting tome at 500 pages but it is a book I would rank among the bests in the genre of historical fiction. If there ever was a story that made observing plant kingdom sound fun then this would be it.
Alma Whitaker is the observant, intelligent and determined daughter of a self made millionaire. Born in 1800s Alma’s time growing up is spent getting the kind of education that would make any botanist proud. She looks at nature as a classroom, and her hunger of knowledge is fueled by her inquisitive genes and a conducive environment. Her extraordinary sense of understanding of the plant kingdom is what sets her apart from rest of her peers. As Alma grows up to be a botanist well ahead of her times, her understanding of evolution is held back only by her own inhibitions and reservations.
Across the globe and spanning a lifetime, this book is what defines good literature . Narration dare I say is flawless. Gilbert’s prose is filled with characters who will amaze you. Some like Alma’s father Henry are enterprising, fearless and brilliant while her adoptive sister Prudence is an enigma. The love of her life shakes up matters more than what the readers can handle at that point. It is a wonderful mix that comes once in a while. Alma herself is one of the best written female characters I have come across in literature. She might be a figment of Gilbert’s mind, but she is spot on in her depiction of woman of science. Alma’s triumph and disappointments and Gilbert’s chronicle of it all makes this book an essential reading. Times have changed, but women of science have more or less taken the same path as Alma. That alone makes this book a must read.
It took Gilbert a long time to finish writing a book given the amount of time she spent researching the subject. If that helped her bring to the readers a story so well crafted, I will be happy to wait a few more years for her next one given its as awesome as this one. While her Eat, Pray, Love might not have been my cup of tea, this sure was.
I use Grammarly for online proofreading because it helps me keep the grammar police happy!