sylvia ashby

Blog Tour of The Sinking Chef FINALE

Week TWO of The Sinking Chef blog tour is over.
I’m sad and happy all at the same time.

I’ll miss opening my Twitter feed in the morning and reading peoples’ thoughts about the book while sipping my coffee 💗💗💗 It was just so much FUN having bloggers reviewing The Sinking Chef. All the wonderful reviews made me really happy.

Not all reviews were good but that didn’t matter somehow. I was just happy that people read my book. I’m easily pleased like that 🙂

On Monday 25th of September, Ali the Dragon Slayer wrote: “This is ideal for a light read…”

Ali didn’t care for much Ashley. Oh, dear 🙂

Get in touch with Alison @DrewComps on Twitter!

Also on Monday, The Sinking Chef was at Laura’s Carousel.

I really loved this review and Laura loved the book, so winning all around! Thank you, Laura.

Get in touch with Laura @LaurasCarousel on Twitter.

Tuesday, the 26th The Sinking Chef was reviewed by Emma at WhyWordsWork. “Every girl has also met a James and Giacomo. The literal personification of the patriarchy, with his guilt tripping, suit wearing, patronising smugness – or the well-meaning boy with a heart of gold, but too insecure to open up about his problems. They couldn’t be more different, but they are a boat load of fun to read.”

Thank you, Emma for raising some good points about YouTubers!
You can connect with Emma on twitter here @ERHollands

On Wednesday the 27th, The Sinking Chef was with Girl Masked. She was very kind and had this to say “I really got used to the characters and grew to like and them and even love them as if they were real, like I did, you too could really fall in love with this book.”

Thank you, Kate! Get in touch

Also on Wednesday Aimee Raindrops has 12 FUN facts about me. If you’re interested how many steps I walk in a day (not a lot) or if I like ice cream you can find out here.

Find Amiee on Twitter @aimeeraindrop

Thursday, was for BookLoverWorm who is usually found in a comfy chair with a book. She also did an interview with me. Thank you, @Bookloverworm1

Hayley at WEAR A HALO wloved Giacomo and Ashley together. “I did however love the story of Ashley and Giacomo, I felt like they were written perfectly, so sweet together and something more real than some fictional relationships.”

Connect with Hayley on Twitter @

On Friday Ruminvte “Emotional – While a great portion of the book is following Ashley and all the many  situations she gets herself into, the story also does well with depicting slightly dysfunctional familial relationships. There were heartfelt moments where you really empathise with the characters and root for them.”

Get in touch with Rumaanah @ruminvtes

On Saturday Emma-Louise published on her blog Read, Write, Inspire an excerpt from The Sinking Chef.

Thank you, Emma-Louise

Sunday, was the last way of the blog tour and it went out with a BANG! Nikola from Short Book and Scribes loved the book “The Sinking Chef made me snigger many times. The author has a slightly sardonic writing style that was right up my alley.” And “And what can I say about Giacomo, her gorgeous Italian boyfriend? He’s the strong and silent type, a chef and Ashley’s mad about him (who wouldn’t be?). The supporting characters are so fantastic too, with special mention for Paige and Jun, whom Ashley meets when she is invited to pitch to have her cookbook published. What a pair they are!”

I’d like to copy-paste the whole review here but I suspect that might make this post a bit too long. You have to go and read the review on Nicola’s blog.

That was all from The Sinking Chef blog tour.

Next, Neverland Blog Tours and I have a cover reveal for Prosecco Christmas.

Watch this spot!

Sylvie

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

A book of brilliant beginning, strangely satisfying ending, and a “meh“ middle part.

41nTt6pxC4L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Margo Lewis is a classics teacher living in Cambridge and doubling as an agony aunt for the local newspaper. Her column is called Dear Amy, hence the name of the book.

After a student from Margo’s school goes missing—presumed a runaway because of a few hastily gathered personal possessions—Margo begins to receive some very disturbing letters. They are addressed to the Dear Amy columnist and are written by a girl that’s gone missing decades ago and is presumed dead.

Now, I loved that beginning. It’s got everything I’m a sucker for in a psychological thriller: a narrator you are reluctant to trust because you instinctively feel she’s not telling you everything. A young girl in peril. A beautiful town and a community that does not quite match the moral dignity it inhabits. Well-buried old secrets surfacing reluctantly.

But, and in this case the “but” is a big one: the book needed more work.
Firstly, there are a few discrepancies in the story. Plot holes but also pieces of information that we are given and that don’t match from one chapter to the next. Secondly, I found the chapters from the villain’s perspective immature and clichéd, to say the least. I don’t think they were needed from suspense and plot development point of view, so I wish they hadn’t been included. The physiological methods for retrieving lost memories described in the book were painfully poor and a bit desperate.

There were a few brilliant moments, sparks, in the reviling of the story, which I enjoyed. The novel is fast passed. Margo is likable and I was rooting for her to be “saved” from her past.

Some reviewers have mentioned that they were annoyed by the romance streak in the novel. I wasn’t. I wanted something good to happen to that woman after all the crap she’s been through. The very last sentence saved the book for me, really. I’m not going into details, but it was kind of a full stop that really gave me closure. It was strangely satisfying in a conclusive sort of way.

This book was given to me by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. In this case, I wished they’d revise the book before releasing it to fix up the few weaknesses and make it a five-star read, which it could well be.

The Treachery of Trains Tour – Summary

Tacf302d9ebe69e681ebce6c5e04ce41d (1)he Treachery of Trains Tour is over.

I’ve been gearing up for it for weeks and now it’s finished I feel quite spent. Many things happened in the ten days it lasted: I met new bloggers and got to hear what they make of the novel. My laptop had to go to the laptop clinic because it suffered a bout of nerves and overheated (the fan was clogged with dust). Last but not least, I sold quite a few books.

Thank you to all the people that found my book appealing in some way. I’d love to hear what you make of it once you’ve finished reading it.

Here is a list of links to blogs that took part in the tour. Your contribution was much appreciated.

DAY 4

I was asked very authorly questions by Amber at Judging More Than Just The Cover. If you want to know why I write check out the interview.

DAY 5

The Treachery of Trains got reviewed by Ali – the Dragon Stayer. Ali had this to say “The writing is cleverly done and is at the right pace to keep pulling you back into the story just as your mind thinks it has found it’s niche. A good book for folks who want something a little different from the usual rom-com mould.” Thank you, Ali!

Here my laptop decided to take a little break and the next few days were a blur, but it eventually came back from rehab right on time for Fede’s amazing review!

DAY 8

Fede gave The Treachery of Trains five ladybugs (the highest honor in ItaPixie’s Book Corner). “This book was funny and heart aching at the same time.I absolutely loved it! The writing was so entertaining it was hard to put down.I was so intrigued by the development of the story I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” Thank you, Fede!

DAY 9

This day was all about Hayley who is rather too fond of books. As Hayley points out in her blog post she jumped on the tour right before it was going to take off and as a result, her blog name was missing from some of the blog posters. BUT her review of The Treachery of Trains is amazing! I want to copy and paste it here in its entirety, but I shan’t as this post will get too long. “I’d never heard of the treachery of an image before but I loved the way it was used and described in this novel. It all then began to make some sense of the title too – the way Sky got the wrong train, a train that wasn’t what it appeared to be, and ended up in a place that she hadn’t mean to go to, that also wasn’t what it seemed to be and yet it ultimately led her to end up where she was destined to be.” Thank you, Hayley!

DAY 10

On the last day, the book and I discovered Chocolate Pages and Amanda, who said: “I am currently very excited about this book, and it is next on my to be read list.” I can’t wait for Amanda’s review!

This was all, lovely people. Keep well, keep reading, and we’ll catch up soon.

S. x

P.S. The image I’ve used in this post is by Edward Fielding. You can buy the poster here.

“The White Cottage Mystery” by Margery Allingham

 

51ukNLTFQnL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_This was Margery Allingham’s first detective story, originally serialised in the Daily Express in 1927. Margery Allingham was one of the beloved writers of the Golden Age of Crime alongside Agatha Cristie, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Croft, Father Ronald Knox etc.

Like every classic Golden Age of Crime novel “The White Cottage Mystery” features an impossible murder, a love story, a noble detective, a suspicious inheritance and demons from the past. There are a lot of charming ladies struggling to do “the right thing”. There is a man who fought in the war and a villain with a cockney accent; a nanny, who is obsessed with her charge and simple but arduous “house staff” who reveal snippets of information about their masters at exactly the right time.

When Eric Crowther is shot to death Chief Inspector Challenor and his son Jerry are involved in solving the crime. Moments before the crime is committed Jerry drives past the White Cottage giving one of its inhabitants – charming Nora – a lift. As Jerry and his father dig deeper into the lives of the people present in the house at the time of the murder, they realise that

anyone could have killed Mr Crowther.

He was a vile man who enjoyed nothing more than collecting peoples’ secrets and torturing them with what he knew.

The novel was, perhaps, fast passed for its time but it lost a bit of it’s shine at present. The emotions are a bit over the top; the dialogue a tad stifling.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book the same way I’d enjoy watching a black-and-white movie from the fifties. Or the same way I crave Shepherd’s pie every now and again. “The White Cottage Mystery” is comfort food for the mind.

J.K.Rowling claims her favourite Margery Allingham’s book is “The Tiger in The Smoke”, so I’m off to check out that next.

I’m grateful for this book to Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Missing, Presumed” by Susie Steiner 

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“Missing, Presumed” is a surprising crime novel on quite a few levels. Good surprising, I must say as opposed to “what is this?” surprising.

For one, the narrative is predominantly driven by DI Manon Bradshaw story, not the actual crime. By her own admission, Manon is “Misanthrope, staring down the barrel of childlessness. Yawning ability to find fault. Can give off WoD (Whiff of Desperation)”. This is an excerpt from a description of herself she’d like to put up on a dating site. She doesn’t post this, no, instead she cuts and pastes another woman’s resume, which she thinks sounds more enticing. And which attracts only weirdos: a poet, who sleeps on his ex’s couch and likes petite women (Manon is not); a guy who doesn’t stop talking about himself, but Manon still sleeps with him.

The crime itself is a dubious one, at best.

A Cambridge student, Edith Hind, is missing from her home. He boyfriend returns to their shared cottage to an open door, a bunch of coats knocked to the floor in the hallway and some blood in the kitchen. That’s it.

Edith, however, is a beautiful, popular, white girl. “An intellectual” according to her father Ian Hind, so the Police take notice. It helps that Sir Ian Hind is the go-to surgeon for the Royal family and frequents the theatre with the Home Secretary. The Police is quick to escalate the manhunt for Edith to national and international scale with mounting costs and disgruntled Police superiors.

At the same time, the body of a young black man is washed up from the river near the Hints holiday home.

Taylor Dent’s been missing for weeks.

His little brother has tried to report him missing, but the Police have taken no heed. The brother is only 10 years old; Dent is impoverished and black. Their mum is a drug addict. Nobody is looking for Dent.

DI Manon Bradshaw stumbles through the investigation in much the same way she blunders through life. She doesn’t so much follows leads and questions witnesses, as we are used to in crime novels, but rather lets the crime evolve until all is revealed.

And all is revealed.

There is a lot of umbrage in this novel. I mean the word “umbrage”. For a rare word like that the characters in the book use it a lot.

Also, I don’t think separating the structure of the novel through many voices adds to the narrative. The voices sound very much alike. There was little difference who’s name was at the beginning of each chapter.

Still, these little facts don’t change that “Missing, Presumed” is a wonderful effort. Looking forward to meeting Manon Bradshaw again.

Beautiful Depression: “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

41LdnNav2xL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_“The floor seemed wonderfully solid. It was comforting to know I had fallen and could fall no farther.”Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar is (almost) modern prose; (almost) an autobiography; and (completely) a perfect piece of art. I could write for days about the poetry of the prose of Sylvia Plath. Of her mesmerising metaphors and allegories; the quickness of her mind and her unaffected writing style.

But as beautiful as our words could be, ultimately, they would be about depression. That’s what The Bell Jar is all about.

Sylvia Plath’s fight with this multifaceted demon lasts throughout her short life. She dies at the age of 30, after countless suicide attempts, leaving behind two very young children, numerous poems, and one novel – The Bell Jar. Half a century later, I’m as fascinated by it as all those before me, who’ve read it and attempted to write about it.

Sylvia Plath’s first suicide attempt is at the age 19, by swallowing her mother’s sleeping tablets and hiding under the house to die. She survives, by the skin of a miracle. The Bell Jar is about that summer, which marks the start of Sylvia Plath’s relationship with elusive Death.

In the novel her name is Esther and the book was first published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, but it’s all about Sylvia Plath. Like Plath, Esther loses her father at an early age; like Plath, Esther spends a month in New York on a magazine scholarship; like Plath, Esther attempts to commit suicide by taking sleeping pills. Esther leaves behinds a letter to her mother, which is, word for word, the letter Sylvia Plath leaves to her mother when she attempts to commit suicide.

Same as Esther in the book, Sylvia Plath gets inadequate help and dismal reactions to her depression symptoms: electroconvulsive therapy and her mother’s words “I knew you’d decide to be all right again.”

In the 50ties, electroconvulsive therapy was all the rage when it came to treating physiological symptoms. It was prescribed and administered for epilepsy and kleptomania; depression and catatonic states. Esther/Plath receives electroconvulsive therapy during the months spent under psychiatric supervision. They appear to have helped. But the prose in The Bell Jar is like the skin of a maiden spread over broken bones. They threaten to puncture the surface and expose the pain and suffering bellow with every verb and noun.

In The Bell Jar, Esther talks about her doctors with humour and warmth, but her care and gentleness are not reciprocated. Painful and humiliating therapies – insulin shocks alongside the electroconvulsive – are administered.

The sketches of the women in the psychiatric hospital are like the pages of a ghost book. Esther/Plath keeps asking herself why are all these women in the hospital with her, when they appear so normal. Then the pains, the losses, the failure, the shame are revealed; as if through them Plath reveals her own feelings of inadequacy.

Esther’s best friend in the hospital is discovered hanging from the ceiling one morning. This successful suicide attempt is like an echo of the last suicide attempt Sylvia Plath would ever make. As if she knows success is only a matter of time. A delayed execution, that’s never far from her thoughts and would be, ultimately, part of her reality one day.

“I Promise You This” by Patricia Sands

I Promise You ThisThis is Book 3 in Love in Provence by Patricia Sands. It will be, from what I gather, the last book in the series. If you are a bit random, like me, I think you can start from it and work your way towards the beginning of the trilogy. The book sat well as a stand-alone novel and I had no trouble following the story and getting to know the characters.

I Promise You This is the story of Katherine, or Kat, a suddenly single, fifty-something Canadian, who’s left her hometown Toronto after a heartbreak. We meet her as she travels to the Parisian airport with Philippe, a charming and gentle Frenchman she’s fallen in love with. Katherine  is going back to Toronto to take care of her friend Molly, who’s had a life-threatening accident.

Despite the enchanting settings of the book – the French Riviera, Paris and Toronto, I had qualms about this book from the very beginning. There was something that was pushing me away from the text, but I couldn’t quite put my finger to it. The book is well written. The characters believable. I could relate to the emotions and struggles they went through, and yet…

And then, just as Nick was sending his private jet to fetch Philippe from Paris to Toronto for Kat, I knew what it was:

this book was not one of us.

First class flights (with air miles); sending planes to fetch friends. Syrian refugees as private chauffeurs. Hunting the food of famous chefs around Toronto. Private rooms in hospitals. The list goes on. All the characters led really privileged lives to a point that, frankly, I was beginning to resent them.

After this revelation, I finished I Promise You This with a curious detachment. It was a good enough book and I saw no reason not to finish it, but the whole experience wasn’t entirely satisfying. A bit like eating a gluten-free crumpet. Or soy sausage.

Still, I’m grateful for this book to the publisher in exchange for an honest review and I’m sure there are many readers out there who would enjoy reading I Promise You This to the full.

I Promise You This is out on 17 May 2016

“The Forbidden Queen” by Anne O’Brien

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Why do queens vanish in history? Their names get blown out of the windows of the stately, yet draughty rooms of history books. As if once their duty of bearing children—sons!—has been performed they become surplus to history and historians. Katherine of Valois has similar fate, despite the fact that she’s the mother of Henry VI, who in his turn is one of the sides in the War of the Roses.

We’ve all read about Henry V and his legendary conquests in northern France. He had only one wife—Katherine of Valois—before dying at the age of 36. His wife gave him an heir, Henry VI, whom he also know from history books. Yet, until recently I’ve heard nothing of Katherine of Valois. But she’s one of the lucky ones. She’s caught the eye of a contemporary writer, Anne O’Brien, who’s taken to heart to restore Katherine’s life and achievements into the minds of 21st-century readers in her book The Forbidden Queen. There are a few medieval queens that never get mentioned at all.

The Forbidden Queen is written in first-person, from the perspective of Katherine.

I found that to be rather claustrophobic at times.

We follow her inner life as a neglected child and constrained, by religious upbringing, adolescence. We witness her hopes of love and intimacy as she becomes the young wife of Henry V and mourn with her as she turns into an ill-prepared Dowager Queen only a couple of years later.

Katherine knows very little of the real and political battles that are fought around her (or so we all told repeatedly) and as a result, we get hardly any historical background story. Battles get mentioned sporadically. Battlefields, that Katherine is stationed by with her husband, only serve to signify how neglected by her husband is poor Katherine.

And there it is the main problem: “poor” Katherine. Throughout the book, her thoughts are predominantly self-pitying, melancholic, defeatist, and downright dismal.

Her wedding day is depicted through her overhearing some vile gossip about herself and her dropping a golden cup to the floor.

On her first night as a wife to the magnificent Henry V, right before she loses her virginity she has this to say to her husband: “I have nothing to wear to be guest of honour of a tournament.”

After the death of Henry, Katherine is ripe for the picking from ambitious men in the English court. Three men get prominent place in The Forbidden Queen: Henry’s brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester; Edmund Beaufort from one of the foremost families in the land’ Owen Tudor, Katherine’s household master.

Here too, we witness primarily Katherine’s doubts and insecurities on who should she choose. In my reader’s mind, the men in question remained ill-defined and unconvincing.

The real Katherine of Valois was born and raised in the lecherous and insane French court (her father was mad, her mother infamous for her “wanton lewdness”), then sent to a convent and traded off to Henry V for some peace in the Hundred Year War between France and England. She might not have had a lot of political swagger at the English court  (although she was Dowager Queen and attempted to make some important political and personal decisions) but she dared to challenge the medieval bounds and (allegedly, papers have never been found) marry the man she loved. For a medieval woman and a young, widowed queen that must’ve taken courage. I didn’t see that in Anne O’Brien’s Katherine of Valois.

I feel that the inner life Anne O’Brien has inhibited her Katherine doesn’t do justice to the real Katherine.

As it is, The Forbidden Queen is more a romance novel with historically named cast of characters, then historical fiction.

I’ve also found a few historical and time inaccuracies throughout the novel. The most notable one being the use of the phrase “in my good books” by Henry V. The phrase was first recorded in 1509, come 100 years after the events in The Forbidden Queen take place.

This is the first Anne O’Brien book I’ve read and, according to amazon readers, not her best. I’m unsure if I should give another of her books a chance. I’d be grateful for recommendations.

“It Started with a Snub” by Bernadette Maycock 

41MPIOb550L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_There are a couple of things that drew me to this book that are not your typical reasons to want to read a novel. First of all, I stumbled upon Bernadette’s blog and realised that she is Irish. Second, I read on Amazon that she is the mother of four boys. Now, anyone who can manage four kids and not want to drown in a bucket of gin on daily basis is my hero. But a woman who has four boys and still manages to write a book is, basically, the brightest star in the sky.

Let me elaborate on the first point a bit.

Every Irish author I’ve read—and I’ve read a few—writes with nothing but empathy and (dare I say it?) love towards their protagonists. Maeve Binchy, Marian Keys, Colm Tóibín, Cecilia Ahern, even the eponymous James Joyce and Oscar Wilde are never judgemental towards their cheating, gambling, suicidal, alcohol abusing, eccentric main characters. They don’t find excuses on their behalf either. They simply accept that people are flawed. And we have to deal with that in life, as well as in novels. I’ve been drawn towards the compassion and warmth of Irish literature for as long as I can remember.

In It Started with a Snub, Bernadette has created a cast of characters that is as full of contradictions as any human beings I’ve ever met. Take Heather’s boyfriend, Graham, for example. He could be unbelievably selfish one minute, then he’d pick her up and carry her halfway from the pub to her house because her feet hurt. We’ve all met people like that, haven’t we? Some of us dated people like that for a long time. I’m not naming names and pointing fingers. It’s the sort of thing that could happen to anyone.

The story in Bernadette’s book, just as suggested in the blurb, revolves around Heather “…as she navigates the simple things in life, her inability to remember the code for the house alarm, odd driving habits, general musings on chick flicks, casualties in cooking, as well as her attempts to talk down the “mad farmer with the gun.”” There are dark times in Heather’s life too and they were treated with the sensitivity that, as mentioned above, I’ve come to expect from an Irish author.

There are a lot of characters in It Started with a Snub.

There are Heather’s family and her housemates, but also her workmates and the friends and girlfriends of her friends, still they come forward with their own voices and character traits. Here is a little sample of a dialog that springs out from the page:

“‘The other night I asked him to come up with three words to describe me and he came up with sexy, beautiful, funny – could he not have done better than that? Oh and don’t take offence at this but if I hear anything else about how amazing Heather is, I’ll lose it! She’s so strong, she’s so funny, she’s so amazing. I mean we even started talking about you in the lead up to getting down and dirty. He said you were like a ray of light. Ray-of-light… now there’s three words I would have been happy with…’

‘Sweet Jesus.’ Heather’s face felt like it was about to explode. ‘Please don’t talk about me before sex again.’”

Bernadette manages to carry us through the ups and downs of the narrative with a smooth and melodic voice that’s delightful to read.

One thing I’d like to point out, though, and that’s the only point of possible improvement for the books Bernadette would write in the future, is that the book was overly long for me. As much as I liked the bubbly way the characters talked, I found myself distracted at times from the plot with all the details they shared.

All in all, It Started with a Snub is a fantastic debut that finished very satisfactory (I’m not saying more!) and left me with the lingering pleasant sensation usually associated with having a drink with a friend.

It Started with a Snub was gifted to me by the author for an honest review.

Buy It Started with a Snub on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

 

 

“The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert

51n+ltX8X2L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Before I start, there is one thing to get out of the way: I’m not a book snob. I’ve read Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love with the same perpetuating curiosity that makes me read all books. To me, a story is a story. Discriminating against books based on marketing genres and covers would be equal to submitting to borders drawn in the sand by other people, which is the opposite of what books are supposed to do with our minds.

That said, The Signature of All Things is a well-written and, to my non-botanical mind, a well-researched novel. One that’s full of tiny, down-to-earth enlightenment moments that made me put it on my chest after I’ve finished reading it and think for a while before I got on with my life. And even more tellingly, I woke up with Alma Whittaker and her wondrous mosses the next morning.

And they made me smile.

The novel follows Alma Whittaker’s life—from birth to death—in a simple, linear way.  But, as Gilbert often remind us throughout the book, Alma is her father’s daughter. So the book is as much about Henry Whittaker as it is about Alma.

Henry Whittaker was a “…poor-born and nearly illiterate man to become the richest inhabitant of his city…”. Born in London, Richmond he grew up “…sleeping one wall away from the pigs…”. He was the youngest son of a worker in Kew gardens, who had once managed to save the king’s favourite apple tree and thus had been nicknamed “the Apple Magus”. Henry starts working in Kew gardens at the age of ten. This shapes his destiny, as well as the destiny of his only daughter. From there on botany becomes the family trade.

At the age of thirty-two, already very wealthy and well-travelled, Henry Whittaker washes up on American shores and settles down in Philadelphia with his Dutch wife Beatrix. That’s where Alma was born and where the majority of her life happens.

Alma’s childhood is exemplary of what her life would be: self-sustained, lonely but full of thirst for knowledge and, ultimately, very satisfying. We are taken on long walks in her father’s woods with her trusted pony when she is only a small child. Later, we discover in those same woods Alma’s passion in life: mosses. Much the same way we go to Tahiti with her in search for The Boy.

The book is written sparingly from details and research point of view. It’s easy to burden the prose of any historical novel with useless material. Elizabeth Gilbert has escaped this trap with elegance and, seemingly, with ease. Yet, places and characters are drawn out with depth and with compassion that makes them believable and beloved. This is Gilbert’s strongest point in writing, I believe: detailing the thoughts and changes in her protagonists’ minds to a point of their inevitable growth; and ours alongside theirs.

One thing I wished for, as I progressed the five hundred pages of the novel, was that

Gilbert would trust her readers more.

The reminders and repetitions throughout the book spoiled the journey a bit. If we didn’t want to know Alma, we’d have stopped reading by page 305. Since we’ve passed the mid-point of the book and we are still reading, there is no point telling us that “Alma Whittaker was a woman of quick calculation, and far from sensual innocent.” We’ve watched her study Latin, French, Greek and Dutch by the age of ten and we’ve been to the Binding Closet with her countless times. We know what Alma is like and how her mind works. We are not “onnozelaaren”; or if we are we don’t like it pointed out.

This takes me to the point of discord in this novel: the going-ons in the Binding Closet. Other reviewers have accused Gilbert of inserting these elements for sensationalist sake. They’ve found them disturbing and off-putting. I did not find them disturbing and I didn’t think any less of Alma because of her, somewhat dubious, choice of past time. On the contrary, they made Alma all the more human despite her being anchored in time three centuries away from mine.

Elizabeth Gilbert has been ambitious in undertaking the writing of The Signature of All Things. She has attempted an almost Marquez-like outlook on the wholeness of life, minus the magical reality; a Hilary Mantel’s on-look on a historical subject with a twist. Only time would tell if she’d been successful in her attempt, but I can gladly confirm that The Signature of All Things is well-worth reading and thinking about it afterward. Gilbert has managed to make Alma’s personal journey somehow universal. That in itself is wondrous.