I recently read a really interesting book called 'The Signature of all Things' by Elizabeth Gilbert.
This book tells the story of Alma Whittaker, who is born in 1800, at the beginning of a new century, to vastly wealthy botanical explorer Henry Whittaker and his highly accomplished and knowledgeable Dutch wife. Alma is highly intelligent and, unusually for this time, her mother insists on Alma receiving an education equal to that of any man. Alma grows up to become a first-class botanist, carrying out research and publishing her findings in the journals of the day. Despite (or perhaps partly because of) her academic success, Alma is unhappy in love and marriage.
We follow Alma as her life unfolds, beginning in Philadelphia, moving to Tahiti in middle age, and then finally settling in Holland.
If you enjoy expansive novels that cover 'big' issues such as the lot of women, the discovery of the new world, and the progress of human knowledge then you, like me, should also enjoy 'The Signature of all Things'.