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)
I truly enjoyed this book. The story was interesting, the narration was excellent, the characters were beautifully flawed and I really appreciated the author's hard work.
Amazing! I was hooked from the beginning to the very end, caring about each character and inspired to think deeply about life. The voice reading this book actually modified her voice as the characters aged, and I always knew who was speaking before the narration read the name of the speaker. Exquisite!!!!
I've read this book for twice and have just finished listening to this audio version for the second time. Love Elizabeth Gilbert and Juliet Stevenson so much!
Lovely prose, poorly conceived plot and cartoonish characters. Truly a waste of time. I had enough affection for the main character that I kept slogging through. Don't waste hours of your life as I did. Save yourself ....as soon as you begin disliking the book, put it down and don't look back. It doesn't get any better, and the heavy-handed plot devices Gilbert employs to reveal her character's life philosophy are amateurish and insulting to readers.
I have read a couple of her other books and greatly enjoyed them. I listened to this one wanting to enjoy it and waiting for it, and grew sad when I realized that I had wasted all of those hours on this book.
While the book was well written, there were areas of it that just kept going over and over the same topic and it became boring. Overall I found the main character to not be wholly likeable. The narration was very good, but this won't be a book that I listen to again, and that is usually my hallmark of a really good book.
A really rich and beautiful epic tale in minute detail and splendidly told what a marvelous world we live in-/this book makes you realize how amazing life is! Juliette narrated it beautiful and it was lovely to luxuriate in a time when things were so different. A brilliant piece of scholarship as well-/what a command of detail and it came alive and I learned a lot! Bravo!
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