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)
Juliet Stevenson's narration, as always, is superb. I did graduate work in 19th century theories of evolution ten years ago, so it was wonderful to re-submerge into that wonderful time this time for pleasure, and I appreciated how the plot pulled together all of the threads to reflect the theory. Plus I was surprised at how much I was able to relate to this protagonist.
Probably the scene where she meets her uncle in Amsterdam with Roger the dog.
I did laugh out loud a few times while listening while riding mass transit.
The blurb on the book doesn't justly describe the book's richness, helped enormously by Stevenson's narration. At times it is just a long list of things someone saw rather than plot action, but even that is depicted so richly as to be sensuous and vivid.
Marylynout thought and the gift it brings to enjoy life. Vigorously researched and educational as well as providing a good story. I admire Gilbert's mind and her ability to create this cohesive glimpse into natural science, human emotions, and nineteenth -century America. Juliet Stevenson is just the right reader for this story.
Pate au Choux
I don't usually "read" fiction on audio books. I found before that i space out or don't get as absorbed in the story. But I really enjoyed listening to this book. It held my attention and created a world I could live in while listening.
From start to finish, I found this book exceptionally captivating. It was so well researched that I genuinely enjoyed the glimpse into life during the book's time. I admit I am a bit of a botanist, so this book was more than just up my ally; it absolutely nurtured every part of my soul and at the end left me feeling like I had taken a much needed vacation. Not to mention, the book was incredibly unpredictable...this is truly a unique story.
A sweeping novel for our time, trying to reconcile science and the divine and pondering eternal questions about what constitutes a successful life.
Even though, as a Dutch person, I could find fault with the Dutch pronunciation and Dutch accents of the narrator, I loved her voices and intonation and enjoyed the book as a meditation through her voice.
But I did stick with the book to the very end. I liked the message, but at times I found myself thinking that the characters were clearly "made up". When my own thoughts invade a book while listening, the author is clearly not keeping the book real. I enjoy fiction but I also like it to be believable...this storyline was not. It felt like the author was often reaching to carry her plot along. That said, there were beautiful passages in the book, but maybe not worthy of spending that many hours to find them
I can not say enough good things about Elizabeth Gilbert. I am always absolutely floored by the breadth of knowledge and research that she pours into her books. Highly recommend this book!!
At 21 hours long, this is a very long audible book. However, I found it to be quite engaging so it went by quickly. I am not a botanist, amateur or otherwise, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of the science in this book. That being said, it FELT well researched, it read very much like an engaging biography.
I love the narrator's voice... gentle, British and feminine. The book itself is similar. Let it gently take u back into the details of the biological world, the ebb and flow of dramatic events, the live and kisses of life. Definitely a book to b read more than once.
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