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)
If I had tried to read this book, in its 500 page entirety, I doubt I would have made it. The reader, however, is fantastic and helped me to get through the long sections of this book that drag and slowly pold along with little or no plot development. This book is beautifully written, and Gilbert clearly did her research, but ultimately this book was too long and really fairly unsatisfying in the end.
This is my second favorite story of all time. There are so many important things in this book. The language is so, so beautiful. Please listen.
Yes. I love Elizabeth Gilbert's non-fiction, but haven't been enthused about her fiction -- until this book. It was surprisingly good.
Alma, of course.
That's hard to say. She does a remarkable job of creating voices that bring the characters to life.
I will forever be haunted by Ambrose Pike. So likeable, yet so strange.
As a child in the 50s I was led to believe that there were no great women scientists or writers or artists. Elizabeth Gilbert is a consummate storyteller and whether it is true or fiction, this story about a unique and brilliant woman answers that question meticulously and with great compassion.
I found it endlessly fascinating to weave through the ins and outs of this generational story, and of the great loves of an extraordinarily ordinary- looking woman.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have read a book that combines entertainment, romance and some damn good thinking.
Juliet Stevenson's remarkably versatile voice was the perfect accompaniment to this tale.
A Tour De Force read with perfection by Juliet Stevenson, as ever. Elizabeth Gilbert has an incredible imagination and has researched her subjects well. A slow and gentle unfolding of the wide-ranging tale of one woman's life.
Elizabeth Gilbert has woven together one of the most engaging, compelling, beautiful pieces of artistic, scientific literature I've ever been blessed to devour. Who would've thought such a discovery of science, botany and mosses could have been intricately sewn together so perfectly with the theory of life itself? Perfectly told through the life and times of one brilliant minded and completely, imperfectly, human Alma Whittaker. I think this may very well be my favorite book of all time! I am eternally grateful for these 26 hours of listening. I am only sad to be finished. I could have listened to at least another 26 hours of this decadence.
Elizabeth Gilbert's wild ride spans several lifetimes. Each character is richly drawn and captivating. This is a truly transporting story and a creative masterpiece. Juliet Stevenson's narration, a superb performance, is truly
among my favorite narrations. And so, in this case, a masterful writer and narrator have collaborated to give the reader a cultural experience!
Report Inappropriate Content