Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November tea and a book: The Signature of All Things

I first saw The Signature of All Things recommended at the blog of Stephanie Burgis, and knowing how much Steph and I have in common when it comes to fiction preferences, I figured it would be just my cup of tea. Prior to this, I'd never read a book by Elizabeth Gilbert, who (as you probably know) shot to fame with her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. I became a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert the person, however, when I saw her Ted Talk on creative genius. And when I learned that the heroine of this novel is a botanist in the Victorian era, I was eager to dive in.

What an odyssey! All I wanted to do all day was read Alma's story, which is not to say I found the book perfect, but it certainly was wildly absorbing and thought-provoking. (And since I tend to recommend children's books on this blog, I want to be sure you know this is an adult story, probably suitable for older teens and up.)

If you'd like a little more context, please watch this three minute book trailer. I love it particularly because Gilbert admits to searching out an actual house in Philadelphia to be White Acre (the grand house where Alma Whittaker grows up), because she likes to "go out and roll around in the world" she's inventing. I certainly can identify with that!

And now for tea . . .

This month I chose the Almond Oolong from Adagio. I don't drink Oolong that often, but I wanted to feature something a little different, and its delicacy and fruity/nutty flavor paired nicely with a sweet treat.

That red blob, a frosted sugar cookie, is supposed to look like an autumnal maple leaf, but oh well! My tummy was pleased. You can find the recipe here. And be sure to use almond and vanilla extract in your frosting. :)

To conclude, I'll link you to this List of Thanksgiving novels from psychologytoday.com. I attempted The Ghost at the Table (too dreary) and finished A Patchwork Planet (nice). Would you second any of the other recommendations on the list? If so, please let me know!

Happy Thanksgiving!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]


  1. I remember hearing of this book, and lo! my library has it! Thanks for the reminder, Sonia :-)

  2. I found this book fascinating not only for the characters and story that drew me in immediately but also for the wealth of information about history and plants. So many times authors who do extensive research for their book seem intent on sharing their new-found knowledge with readers rather than using that information to enhance the story. In this book, however, Gilbert found the elusive balance between "faction" and fiction. In fact, she so skillfully interwove the two, I often found myself googling characters, events, and places to find which was which. Thanks for the report, Sonia. I'm glad you found this book as "wildly absorbing" as I did.

    1. Gilbert really drew me into Alma's scholarly world. Who'd have thought I'd become so fascinated by moss diversity! I guess because she anchors us so effectively to the characters, we're drawn to their passions. (And one could use this book in a course on how to use exposition effectively.)

  3. I always enjoy your recs, Sonia! And that includes the Assam tea rec to go with my banana cinnamon scones - good combo!

    A maple leaf? If you say so!

    1. Yay for Assam! And my next batch of frosted cookies was much less blobby. :)