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The Signature of All Things: A Novel | [Elizabeth Gilbert]

The Signature of All Things: A Novel

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.
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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

4.2 (2035 )
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4.6 (1828 )
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  •  
    Diana 06-02-15
    Diana 06-02-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Great book"

    I love the storyline of this book. It speaks to my scientific mind and keeps me wondering what will happen next. Definitely another listen in the future.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eloise Halpern Locust Valley, NY 06-01-15
    Eloise Halpern Locust Valley, NY 06-01-15

    Elo

    ratings
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    1
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    "Painful!"

    I really cannot imagine how the same author could write such a wonderful book in Eat Pray Love and then this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    N. Thomas Santa Rosa, CA,USA 05-31-15
    N. Thomas Santa Rosa, CA,USA 05-31-15 Member Since 2014

    nancynurse

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    "Very engrossing"

    I enjoyed this novel of a female scientist who spent her life in the study of moss and theorized as Darwin did. Good production.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ilona 05-26-15
    Ilona 05-26-15 Member Since 2013
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    7
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    "A little long and rambling"

    I could help feeling that I was being lead on a journey to see a formidable botanist and lady such as Alma Whitaker get laid! I wanted it to be so much more in so many less pages. The narration however was really lovely, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol C. 05-15-15
    Carol C. 05-15-15 Member Since 2013
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    12
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    "Perfect narration"

    I often take advantage of Whispersync, buying both Audio and print so I can listen in the car and kitchen, but read in bed. This book is the first one that I did not read at night, even though I owned the printed version. The narration is just that good. (Oh, and the book was good, too)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Mid Atlantic 04-29-15
    Amazon Customer Mid Atlantic 04-29-15
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    "Beautifully written"

    This lovely story is about a life, simply and passionately lived .The prose was thoughtful and artistic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vivian Hamer Lake Forest, CA United States 04-28-15
    Vivian Hamer Lake Forest, CA United States 04-28-15 Member Since 2014
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    6
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    "Lends itself beautifully to an audio listen."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, it is quite engrossing and captured the interest immediately. Enjoyed the correlations to botany and human existence.


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

    When Alma realizes how she has misjudged her adopted sister, and the actions she takes to rectify that.


    What does Juliet Stevenson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Juliet Stevensen is an excellent narrator-- I am very picky so that's saying something! Her accents and different characters are quite good, and her Dutch accent is very believable. I'll watch for her with other novels.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elisabeth D. Calmes 04-26-15 Member Since 2013
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    16
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    "Draggy"

    It was an interesting story but went on too long! I am a fan of Juliet Stevenson's narrations so it was really not her.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle 04-25-15
    Michelle 04-25-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Master"

    Elizabeth Gilbert is a master of the English language

    I found this whole experience riveting
    I would listen to it all again

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine Garvey 04-22-15
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    "Another masterpiece by Elizabeth Gilbert! Bravo"

    The narrator is exquisite and should be reading every book on Audible! The narrator makes the book come alive and is superb to the highest degree!!! Elizabeth Gilbert is brilliant and this book is an absolute masterpiece A+++!!!!
    A must read, especially for a biologist as myself. I found so much of myself in the lead character Alma Whittaker and its a story that takes you on a world journey. Looking for a vacation- here it is all while sitting in your own home! Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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