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
"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)
the prose and narrator made this a total delight! if you like stories that transcend several generations and strong women, you'll love this book!
It's a story about a woman who studies moss, whom the author goes to great lengths to describe as ugly, ugly, ugly. She's so ugly that no man will have sex with her. Give me a break. Men will have sex with anything. Men will have sex with park benches and sheep. The story doesn't have a plot. It just drags on and eventually peters out when the woman reaches the end of her life.
It's not often that I wish I could wipe the memory of reading a book so I could read it afresh. The signature of all things is that perfect a book. Loved the narrator as well.
A deeply thought out, gorgeously written and beautifully read book. I consistently put off finishing the last chapter, as I knew that as soon as did, I would have to leave behind the world of Alma Whittaker, as intelligent and remarkable a heroine as has ever been.
As for myself, I would love to read an expansion on the times and journeys of Henry Whittaker.
I highly recommend this book in both written and audible format.
Both author and narrator of this novel have presented a stunning and mesmerizing tale of one women's remarkably both ordinary and un-ordinary life. I have so thoroughly enjoyed every word!
If I had tried to read this book, in its 500 page entirety, I doubt I would have made it. The reader, however, is fantastic and helped me to get through the long sections of this book that drag and slowly pold along with little or no plot development. This book is beautifully written, and Gilbert clearly did her research, but ultimately this book was too long and really fairly unsatisfying in the end.
This is my second favorite story of all time. There are so many important things in this book. The language is so, so beautiful. Please listen.
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