I must be the only person in the world who hasn't read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything (or seen the film), but I have watched Elizabeth in action as a speaker - most notably in her famous TED talk, to which I've linked before - and I find her very engaging, and having heard tantalising snippets about her forthcoming novel I am very keen to read it. It won't be out until October, but The Signature of All Things looks set to be one of the 'big' books of the autumn, and I'm delighted to have an early proof and to be able to get to it soon I hope. It is a historical novel about a female botanist (click here for more on that) and incorporates - see this short video - "wonder, marvel, travel, curiosity, spirituality ..." themes close to Elizabeth's heart.
Mr Darwin's Gardener by Kristina Carlson (translated from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah) will be out on the 1st. of June, and is the latest book from Peirene Press whose short, European fiction is quality stuff, as you'll see from this post and this one. The new book is "a postmodern Victorian novel about faith, knowledge and our inner needs," and is set in the late 1870s in the Kentish village of Downe. "The villagers gather in church one rainy Sunday. Only Thomas Davies stays away. The eccentric loner, a grief-stricken widower, works as a gardener for the naturalist Charles Darwin. He shuns religion. But now Thomas needs answers. What should he believe in? And why should he continue to live?"
If you listened to BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour this morning you may have heard Jenni Murray talking to Kate Manning about her novel My Notorious Life by Madame X which will be published on the 6th. of June. The book is set in 19th. century New York and is based on a true story as it follows the life of an Irish orphan, Axie Muldoon, from child beggar to the most succesful and controversial midwife of her time. "From the gutter to the glitter of 5th. Avenue", Axie's is a story of "freedom, family and the many faces of love, and above all, of one indomitable woman making her way in a difficult world." Another book I'm greatly looking forward to reading.