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The Signature of All Things Audiobook

The Signature of All Things: A Novel

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Publisher's Summary

A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the number-one New York Times best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure, and discovery. Spanning much of the 18th and 19th centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker - a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia.

Born in 1800, Henry's brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father's money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction - into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist - but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe - from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who - born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution - bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert's wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of listeners.

©2013 Elizabeth Gilbert (P)2013 Penguin Audio

What the Critics Say

  • 10 Best Audiobooks of 2013 (Salon)

"Juliet Stevenson's face would be instantly familiar to Anglophiles everywhere, especially those with a penchant for British TV (her films include "Truly Madly Deeply" and "Drowning by Numbers"), but she's also a first-class narrator…. Stevenson conveys the sense that the hand on the wheel is firm and certain and that the reader may lean back in perfect confidence that neither journey nor destination will disappoint." (Laura Miller, Salon)

“Gilbert's triumphant return to fiction is matched by Juliet Stevenson's lyrical reading. Both author and narrator capture the listener from the novel's opening words.” (AudioFile)

"[A] rip-roaring tale… Its prose has the elegant sheen of a 19th-century epic, but its concerns — the intersection of science and faith, the feminine struggle for fulfillment, the dubious rise of the pharmaceutical industry — are essentially modern." (The New York Times Magazine)

"The most ambitious and purely imaginative work in Gilbert’s 20-year career: a deeply researched and vividly rendered historical novel about a 19th century female botanist.” (The Wall Street Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (3135 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Carol Chino Hills, CA, United States 10-27-13
    Carol Chino Hills, CA, United States 10-27-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A delight from start to finish"
    What did you love best about The Signature of All Things?

    I loved the growth and development of the characters.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Signature of All Things?

    The heartbreak Alma felt when she found out that her husband didn't want the kind of marriage that she did.


    What about Juliet Stevenson’s performance did you like?

    Superb!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. I dragged it out as long as I could. I didn't want it to end.


    Any additional comments?

    I will look for more books by this author and read by Juliet Stevenson.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin 10-21-13
    Robin 10-21-13

    Hi all. I'm in my 50's (that's relevant, i think), and I favor fiction. I like the british sensibility, and was introduced to the Forsyte Saga through audible ... loved it! I happen to also like Chinese writers, but they are not well represented yet at audible. Looking to follow readers with similar tastes ...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Exotic historical fiction"

    This book is very unusual and creative ( as one would expect from the author of "eat, pray, love"). Definitely exotic and a bit esoteric. I have to say, however, that I enjoyed it more while I was reading it than now in retrospect. I enjoyed the exotic forays -- both emotional and locational --?more than the central premise. So, I give this one 4 stars.

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca Edgartown, MA, United States 10-05-13
    Rebecca Edgartown, MA, United States 10-05-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Half way through and loving it!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I listen to this book at work and can't wait for Monday morning! The detail really makes the story come together. An educational, insightful story that has my full attention.


    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KCEG 08-03-16
    KCEG 08-03-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Meh."

    I spent a third of the book wondering why I was still reading it. there isn't any storyline that holds you in. you are just told the predictable events of someone's life

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gigi 07-28-16
    Gigi 07-28-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Couldn't get through it"

    I adored "Eat, Pray, Love", and expected Elizabeth Gilbert's characteristic zest and presence to carry over into fiction. I'm sorry to say that the 'voice' of the author seemed impersonal and distant in this book. She just didn't seem engaged in the story, which made it hard for me to be engaged as well. I stuck it out for several hours, but eventually moved on.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Marks Boston, MA 07-24-16
    W. Marks Boston, MA 07-24-16
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    "No point exhausting and frustrating."

    Book never got to a strong or happy place. Just defeat after defeat. All voices male and female sounded same. Very disappointed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    IceDancingKaren California 10-18-15
    IceDancingKaren California 10-18-15

    The Dog Mom

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Simply Magnificent!"

    Sometimes a historical fiction novel so dazzles a reader that a brief review does not do it justice. Such is the case with The Signature of All Things, but here goes . . .

    This book captivating me for myriad reasons: the writing is beautiful - more like poetry than prose; the story is profound, complex, elaborate and spellbinding, in a quiet, sneaks-up-on-you way and the characters are beyond memorable - they wend their way into one's heart and mind. I don't recall a book that I've read in the past 10 years that made me cry for sadness for its characters.

    The research that surely went into writing this book is hard to comprehend. It is detailed in its descriptions of those things botanical included in it (and these are numerous), yet never tedious or boring.

    I apologize to Ms. Gilbert, whose book, Eat, Pray, Love I read and enjoyed. However, it never occurred to me that she was a writer of such magnitude to produce this remarkable piece of fiction.

    The narration by Juliet Stevenson is perfect! She is beyond gifted in her ability to breathe life into Gilbert's characters.

    This is a book of beauty, that unfolds slowly and elegantly, then keeps the reader in its clutches in a completely enchanting way. It is not a read for everyone, to be sure, but was a great treasure for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mamabear 1625 10-30-14 Member Since 2016
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    "Loved this audiobook!"
    If you could sum up The Signature of All Things in three words, what would they be?

    Sprawling novel covering 80 years of Alma Whittaker's life.....


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Definitely Alma Whittaker, and Ambrose Pike


    Have you listened to any of Juliet Stevenson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, this was my first, but I have now purchased another of hers, The Paying Guests


    Any additional comments?

    Definitely worth the cost of this book, a bit long for some maybe, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. L. Finch Seattle, WA 06-07-14
    C. L. Finch Seattle, WA 06-07-14

    I love action and suspense embedded in a good fantasy or mystery. Sprinkles of romance okay, but no erotica please.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A beautiful work of art"
    Any additional comments?

    I felt like I was watching an artist paint, stroke by loving stroke, unique and fascinating characters onto an exquisite landscape. I laughed and I cried. I also enjoyed learning more about Botany and Gilbert's take on Darwinism. I loved the idea that God provides plants to help or heal the human body--with visual clues, such as a walnut looks like a brain and helps the brain. This book is amazing work; I don't know how she did it, but hats off to her!

    P.S. Warning, it does get a bit sad and depressing in some places, but I managed to push through those parts. However, since I hate to feel depressed even for a moment I did mark it down a point.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marjorie Santa Rosa, CA, United States 04-14-14
    Marjorie Santa Rosa, CA, United States 04-14-14 Member Since 2016

    Life's good when I am listening to a great book.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting and Different"

    This book was beautifully read by Juliet Stevenson adding to the pleasure of the story. I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. It held a steady pace and kept my interest until about the last hour or so. I enjoyed the travels to several continents of the world while listening to the tales of the unusual lives of the Whittaker family, specifically, of Alma Whittaker. I also enjoyed learning about Alma's academic life as she was able to enjoy it following on the heels of her hard working, courageous if not conniving father. The reader is delivered into Alma's world of study, of adventure, and of the trials of sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction for a woman during the 19th century. My only complaint about this book is that it seemed to slowly die out towards the end but, to be fair, I often do not enjoy endings.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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