Alma Whittaker is born into a family of privilege and wealth but is an independent woman “with a thirst for knowledge”. Alma’s particular interest is botany as she discovers early in life. Her father was a botanist and her life and means have afforded her the ability to be able to study what she wants, when she wants to. She’s a unique woman whom the story follows from childhood deep into adulthood.
I fell in love with Alma Whittaker just a little bit. I love her scientific mind, her quiet ambition and her confidence in herself in a time when women were only expected to produce a child and manage the home. The only thing I didn’t love was how the story seemed to meander here and there–which I suppose is fitting, if Gilbert was going for realism since that’s how life works at times. That said, sometimes I felt like the story turned a corner, encountered a potential plot and then walked back in the other direction in order to find a different corner to turn. Some ongoings interested me and some just left me slightly puzzled as to why it was even mentioned.
I will say that I was slightly disappointed in the man quoted in the synopsis as the one to draw Alma in the opposite direction of science and more toward the divine. That portion of the story felt weak and unnecessary. I’m sure some will disagree with me and that’s okay. Overall, I enjoyed this work quite a bit and breezed through it fairly quickly for a novel of such size. Someone on Goodreads described this novel as “ambition and accessible” and I would have to agree. Don’t be deterred by the size, my dears. Go forth and devour the pages. :)