We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
 >   > 
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.
Regular Price:$27.97
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

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 (1238 )
5 star
 (593)
4 star
 (388)
3 star
 (175)
2 star
 (49)
1 star
 (33)
Overall
4.1 (1136 )
5 star
 (532)
4 star
 (345)
3 star
 (165)
2 star
 (59)
1 star
 (35)
Story
4.5 (1129 )
5 star
 (741)
4 star
 (277)
3 star
 (86)
2 star
 (17)
1 star
 (8)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    JOANNE VERO BEACH, FL, United States 07-21-14
    JOANNE VERO BEACH, FL, United States 07-21-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    27
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I'm sorry, Liz."
    Any additional comments?

    I have read three books by Liz Gilbert. I loved, loved, loved EAT, PRAY, LOVE and read it twice. But I have not enjoyed the two books that followed it, I am sorry to say. Liz Gilbert can turn a phrase beautifully at times and employ great metaphors as well as tackle interesting topics. Yet, I did not enjoy this novel and had a hard time finishing it. She took on a noble and challenging theme but it did not capture my attention. I felt compelled to complete the book in spite of that. The narrator was very good, but I found her style too monotone and the characters not differentiated enough. I almost did not write this review because I wanted to honor the time and effort put in to writing the book and narrating it. It may be true in this case that if I have very little nice to say, I should say nothing at all. It is so much easier to be critical of a book than it is to write or to narrate it. This is simply my subjective opinion. Clearly, many other readers felt quite differently about it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie 06-30-14
    Julie 06-30-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    39
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Signature of All Things the most enjoyable?

    The performance was perfect. In fact hearing Juliet's voice now, I can't even imagine trying to read it on my own with the the voice in my head. She really brought the book alive - made the story what it is to me.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Alma. Her humanity.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dell FRUITLAND PARK, FL, United States 06-23-14
    Dell FRUITLAND PARK, FL, United States 06-23-14 Member Since 2013

    I enjoy historical fiction, humor, and biographies. I listen to my Audible books as I drive in my car or on my IPhone.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting but very long book"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    This book was broken into 3 parts. I do believe it could have been written in one part completely.


    Any additional comments?

    Interesting book about mosses and history. However, the storyline really didn't go anywhere.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caitlin Sterling, VA, United States 06-19-14
    Caitlin Sterling, VA, United States 06-19-14 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    69
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I tried to like it but it's very long and dull"
    Would you try another book from Elizabeth Gilbert and/or Juliet Stevenson?

    Probably not


    Has The Signature of All Things turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No


    What three words best describe Juliet Stevenson’s performance?

    She has good range and was pleasant to listen to


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Interesting look into the period


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Cianciolo Wisconsin 06-16-14
    C. Cianciolo Wisconsin 06-16-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Signature of All Things the most enjoyable?

    The narrator is fantastic. As a woman of science, I found this book wonderful. I wished I had been able to meet Alma Whittaker


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sand Tampa, FL, United States 05-30-14
    Sand Tampa, FL, United States 05-30-14 Member Since 2006

    So...you're telling me I can pay people to read books to me whilst I do other things?

    HELPFUL VOTES
    164
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    42
    39
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    29
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Satisfying overall, but curious about narration"

    On the whole, I love the premise and execution of this story--the details and historical context were a true pleasure from beginning to end. And, much as I hate to admit it (I'm one of those Eat, Pray, Love eye-rollers), the overall message was pretty inspiring.

    The only thing that bothered me was--excellent as Juliet Stevenson is--why this book was narrated in a British accent. Stevenson's Dutch accents are wonderful, but her American accents seemed all wrong for the period--flat and nasal when educated northeastern Americans like Alma, Prudence, Retta and Ambrose in the early- to late-1800's would arguably have sounded more British than the weird regional twang Stevenson was channeling.
    I'm being very picky here because Stevenson is such a pro--this is definitely not a huge issue with this book, because the actual dialogue-to-narrative ratio is actually pretty miniscule, but this is an ambitious novel and the heroine and setting are distinctly American, so I definitely felt a little dissonance whenever the native-born American characters started talking.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine Z. 05-17-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Absolutely loved this intelligent story!"
    If you could sum up The Signature of All Things in three words, what would they be?

    Historical, thoughtful, and meaningful


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved the history. The story was written with such intelligence, and I loved the readers English accent. She did a wonderful job presenting all the characters in the book. Excellent!


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Alma travelling to, and in the cave with "Tomorrow Morning"


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Yes, when she had to get used to living on the island. Her first day there was quite colorful!


    Any additional comments?

    The book was sad, but happy too. It pulled at me all the way through. Alma's life was full, but sometimes tragic. Excellent story!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    areader 05-15-14
    areader 05-15-14

    Avid Audible Subscriber...

    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    69
    68
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Signature of All Things"

    Very nice book! Captivating and well researched. I wish there were more. Great job of narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy O. 05-15-14
    Nancy O. 05-15-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Takes a long time to get to the point."
    If you could sum up The Signature of All Things in three words, what would they be?

    Great narration.


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









    She is remarkable.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When I got to the end. Finally......If it were not for Julia Stevenson I would have stopped reading.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arabella 05-12-14
    Arabella 05-12-14 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    149
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A strange and unexpected book"
    What disappointed you about The Signature of All Things?

    I thought the book was going to be about botany. It had great elements: Joseph Banks, early plant collections, pharmaceutical uses, study of mosses...but the characters were off-putting and not particularly engaging...and the sections on "quim" and possible homosexuality seemed overdone. There was an opportunity to explore spirituality through androgony that wasn't fully realized. Nor was the section on abolitionism satisfyingly explored. The antiquated language and mores of the times were well done.


    Has The Signature of All Things turned you off from other books in this genre?

    no


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The arrival of Tomorrow Morning and Alma's introduction to him.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Signature of All Things?

    Much of the binding closet.


    Any additional comments?

    The book is of large scope and to be commended. It whetted curiosity but just didn't satisfy it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 31-40 of 81 results PREVIOUS13459NEXT

    There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.