The Signature Of All Things is historical fiction set during the 1800s. Alma Whittaker is the daughter of botanical entrepreneur Henry Whittaker, a self-made millionaire who rose from a London street urchin to be a famous Philadelphia collector. As a young boy, Henry sailed the world as a representative of Kew gardens, where he spotted business opportunities from the medical qualities of plants.
Henry then settled in America and built an enviable empire. Alma grew up exposed to science and education at a time when women botanists were shown little respect by men of science, but under the safety of her father’s reputation, she thrived. After Henry’s death, Alma went to Tahiti following the trail of a plant whilst looking for answers to her personal life. There, she found inspiration to challenge and write her own theories of evolution.
The subject matter was fascinating, and I enjoyed the explosion of plant cultivation and discoveries made from around the world. However, I found this book a challenge to read, as the writing style was rather dense and, although it was well-written, I often felt like I was wading through thick mud. My interest in the subject kept me reading, but it took a good while to get to the end.
View all my reviews on Goodreads
From the moment Alma Whittaker steps into the world, everything about life intrigues her. Instilled with an unquenchable sense of wonder by her father, a botanical explorer and the richest man in the New World, Alma is raised in a house of luxury and curiosity. It is not long before she becomes a gifted botanist in her own right. But as she flourishes and her research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction – into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical.
The Signature of All Things soars across the globe of the nineteenth century, from London and Peru, to Philadelphia, Tahiti and beyond. Peopled with extraordinary characters along the way, most of all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker.