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)
A perfect book, balanced between scientific and spiritual, intellectual and emotional. The research that must have been done is phenomenal. A memorable and worthwhile book and the best narration I've ever heard.
I didn't finish listening. I found it to be very well researched and written but the story was long and didn't really grab my attention. I found the Reverend character in Tahiti to be very annoying, you see! The narrator was very good as well. This one wasn't really my cup of tea!
This was an exquisite performance of a wonderful tale. Well worth listening to!!
The characters were so finely portrayed, but the reader brought them to life absolutely!
This is a must read (listen!) Elizabeth Gilbert has written such a fantastic story! The characters are so well developed you feel like you are reading about your closest friends. It's a page turner but not in a suspenseful way, you just simply can't wait to hear what happens to the characters next. Such a pleasant and well written story!
I fell in love with Alma and Her unconventional life. Her love and quest for knowledge surpassing her love and quest for fame and riches touched me to a level that in fact lends me to offer myself reassurance that even though just a story, can and does bring a lightness and joy to my own unconventional life. As it is in living we find ourselves, and sometimes the reminder can be found in a book.
the story begins with almost father and how he becomes a botanist. it switches over to her story and she travels as her father did. Hers led to a spiritual awakening his did not. I did like the characters and I thought they were well thought out. and I do think as we end our life we take stock and review. this would be good for book clubs. I am glad I read it. much scientific detail in the world of plants and medicines. that was a very interesting aspect of the book. you could tell much research went into it.
Intricately crafted book with well developed characters dealing with matters of significance. Only superlatives come to mind. The use of language is economical, evocative and artful.
Juliet Stevenson's performance is exceptional. Compliments the book perfectly.
It is a long book so I don't think I would listen to it again, but I loved the characters and the telling.
I loved the creation of Miss Alma Whittaker and the story of her life, forged in the gilded crucible of White Acre-- the precocious daughter of a wealthy businessman and botanist with a larger-than-life past, sister to an adopted, stunningly beautiful girl, frustrated wife of an ethereal artist, brilliant student of the life of mosses.
Juliet brings words on the page to life with her voice, tone and inflection. She's brilliant.
Alma, of course. The book is an ensemble piece filled with many memorable characters but it is Alma's story.
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