It’s fiction but educational - about historical botany developments.
At times it felt more like a textbook biography than fiction. There’s a lot of narrative. She did this. She felt that. Those parts could have used a little more dialogue or action. That’s what I’m used to in fiction. Still, it was enjoyable and thought provoking.
The beginning is about Henry Whittaker and how he built his wealth in the plant industry - like growing trees in a new location to produce malaria medicine. He was born in England and later moved to Pennsylvania. The rest of the story is his daughter Alma - following her entire life. She was born in 1800. She had an excellent scientific mind. She studied plants and mosses. She wanted to love a man, but that was unlikely due to her large size and unpleasant appearance.
The “signature of all things” is the idea that God provides plants to help or heal the human body - with clues. For example: the walnut helps the brain and looks like a brain. A plant that helps the liver has leaves that look like a liver. Other subjects in the story are Darwin’s theory of evolution, survival of the fittest, human altruism, and self sacrifice.
There were two sadnesses in the book. One, the story follows Alma to the end of her life. And that by definition is always sad - one’s life ends. The other sadness was something Alma always wanted but never got. I felt sad for her, but there was also a lot of wonderful in this story.
One of the most important things in books is characters. That was great here. It was fascinating how different Prudence and Alma were. Prudence was so odd - and her choices and actions odd. Ambrose was unique - special. Henry’s life was not typical. Alma was interesting throughout. And other characters provided more variety. This is not “we’ve heard it before.” This is a unique collection of characters.
I was unhappy and frustrated with one part. Alma asked a man questions about his actions and relationship with Ambrose. Those were important questions. The man did not give direct answers. He gave vague answers and I had to ASSUME things. I did not like assuming. I wanted the author to tell me specifics - what, how, and why things happened. I wanted to KNOW that story, and I did not get it.
There are illustrations in the book that are not available for the audiobook. The publisher should have made a pdf file of these pictures - for audiobook buyers to download.
There were several sex scenes of someone pleasuring oneself. Those were briefly described, not a lot of detail. There were also references to men with men; they were told, not shown.
The narrator Juliet Stevenson was fine. However I never got used to the way she said “Tahiti.” Her pronunciation might be typical British, but every time she said it, I felt off in a way that brought me out of the story.
Genre: historical fiction
A full story, a good story. This is romance with a womens fiction feel. There is a lot of grief in the first third of the book. A mother Lee loses her 25 year old son Greg in a motorcycle accident. Chris is Greg’s roommate and coworker. Chris mourns the loss with Lee and her family. I don’t want to read books about grief and depressing topics. But this was less troubling than I expected. The author wasn’t focused on making me cry or feel bad. Instead the funeral and death was more of a vehicle for Chris’ and Lee’s paths to cross, repeatedly. Their actions, interactions, and help for each other and compassion for each other was so sensitive and loving to watch. It was wonderful watching them fall in love, even though Lee resisted - for good reasons. She was 45 Chris was 30. Yet it was a wonderful love. It made me want to fall in love like that.
There were interesting side stories about their families. Lee’s 23 year old daughter wanted to date Chris. She had no idea that Chris only had eyes for her mother. Lee’s 14 year old son had unexpected and fun reactions. There is a touching side story about Chris helping a troubled teen.
Sadly the narrator was a bad fit. Barbara Rush has a quivering deep elderly lady voice. It did not fit a sensual sexy woman falling in love. It did not fit the sex scenes - think 70 year old lady having sex. Also she overly sweetened her voice for Lee’s dialogue - like a Snow-White-Disney-princess type. It didn’t feel right for Lee or her children.
The recording sounded odd. It had a muffled sound like talking through a blanket. I got used to it after a while, or it got better.
Genre: grief with contemporary romance, older woman younger man
and then finding value, and it’s good. And your life is better.
Readers in the mood for “true love” with passion and seduction, will not want this. Some find it sad. Although I wasn’t sad. I felt calm and pleased at the end.
Adam’s father dies leaving huge debts. Adam needs to sell the family’s London house and possibly the ancestral home. A friend arranges a meeting between Adam and Jonathan a wealthy business man. Jonathan wants a title for his daughter Jenny. In return he will pay Adam’s mortgages and other things. The wedding is arranged and occurs.
I loved watching Jenny. She is short, stout, unattractive, and quiet. She knows Adam will never look at her with romantic feelings. She accepts that. Her goal is to give Adam a comfortable life. She turns out to be an ideal wife. Things she does are perfect for what is needed. She is thoughtful, cares about others, and desires to please both her father and husband. She has become one of my favorite characters. So solid, so true. And at the end, Adam realizes what a treasure he has in her.
This book is not romantic love. It’s a different kind of love. Before Adam met Jenny, he and Julia had a romantic love - an infatuation. Adam never felt that way for Jenny. But at the end, Adam was comfortable, laughing, and happy in his life with Jenny.
A few times my mind wandered. I forget what those parts were about. Some of them were military things. So I wasn’t fully engaged all the way through. But I enjoyed the relationships and characters as a nice change from traditional romance, which the author is famous for.
The narrator Phyllida Nash was good.
Genre: relationships fiction, regency
I bought this abridged version because I remembered and enjoyed the original version narrated by Anna Fields. Sometimes a truly skilled abridged version of a story can even tighten the original, and I enjoy Jennifer Van Dyke so I thought I would like to listen to an old favorite.
The cuts in this abridgment were not surgical. It was accomplished by cutting out a subplot, and therefore removing one of the main characters of the amputated secondary story. This leaves Molly and Kevin, the main characters, reacting to the ghosts of the missing parts. It still works. Susan Elizabeth Philips writes great stories, and even the surface parts of this story are engrossing, Still, it takes more than a suspension of disbelief to help the reader understand why Molly is so loved by her family, without letting the reader see her complete interactions with Kevin's mom and her nieces and nephews. Getting to know the remarkable woman Kevin's mom is that makes it worth the effort Kevin puts forth to get over reasonable childhood resentments. I listened to this with friends on a drive that took four hours and kept trying to explain that these people were not really a train wreck. We didn't turn it back on for the trip back. Still even watered down Susan Elizabeth Phillips is worth some time.