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)
The 20+ hours spent listening to this brilliant novel were an epic journey led by author Elizabeth Gilbert. The entire time I was listening, I kept thinking, "what an incredibly smart person she must be to have tackled a subject like botany, through the eyes of a woman living in the nineteenth century." Juliette Stevenson, the reader, was incredible. I loved her range and was truly swept away as I listened. Stunning novel and performance!
I love to listen as often as I can! I like young adult, Christian, mystery...whatever...just needs to be a good book and a good narrator!
Juliette Stevens gave a very strong performance. Her characters and their emotions were very believable. This makes this book stand out from others because it was over 20 hours long, and she was very consistent the whole time. It took me a couple weeks to finish the book, but worth the credit.
In addition, the writing was very thorough and well thought out. There was so much science and so many facts in this book, that it seemed to me at many points that a great deal of research must have gone into the writing of this novel. This is very impressive to me, and when paired with an ability to eloquently phrase human thoughts and emotions, a writer demonstrates exceptional skill.
I was quite in tune with Alma's emotions throughout the book, wanting what she wanted until the author had her (and me) realize that might not be for the best. There was one part, about three-quarters of the way through, when I became overwhelmingly saddened at the tragedy of things. I wasn't sure what direction the story was going, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue in case it got any more melancholy. I did finish; it was a true saga of one woman's life.
Conjoined author and narrator, best!
The City and the City by China Mieville and narrator John Lee. Different characteristic spirit of a cultural era and community pertaining to its abstract situation , yet vivid and poetic in the experience, the reader or listeners are consumed. These books are classic audio books, though different genres.
Who let the Doves out? Hypnotic embodiment of authors emotional power, and vividness of the earnest intent of the narrative's various impacts. Where does nature come up with such joyous artistic hand holding. Like to children smiling as they swing in tandem , feet touching the sun.
I'm a 70 year old man whose memory is best to embrace the work in its totality as a work about the gift of life with all its struggles , leaps, loss , wonder and joy. I giggle also at what's behind the veil that nagging mystery?
Art like this makes you wish you could live two lives so as to appreciate what you weren't prescient about!
yes i have. It is engrossing and has many parts to it
I liked how it unfolded
not that i recall. She narrates well
I might not because parts of the book were risqué. Especially when Alma was younger and exploring her sexuality.
I loved Alma. I thought she was amazing. I really liked he when she was a child exploring her estate.
She is an amazing actress. She truly brought the book to life
Almas father. He built White Acre from nothing.
It is one of the best I've listened to. Wonderful story, great research, fantastic reading. I am 55 and it has been a long time since a new title has made it's way into my top ten list, but this book has done so.
Too many to list, and besides, my writing can not do them justice.
Well that would have been tough given it's length, but I played it every moment I could even at risk of ignoring my teenager (which she didnt really mind as she is often listening to another book on her device...
I will never overlook a clump of moss again!
Peanut Butter Club President
Amazing book. I am struggling to encapsulate and describe this journey... I just can't. There is too much... Except to say that it traverses the characters lives in the most riveting, real way, while exploring science, evolution, God, the natural world, madness and human nature in a most exquisite narration ... I listened to it on audible... I was bound by it.
Perfect companion for my long road trip! Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert! Your characters seems so lively and real. Totally resonates. Beautiful work.
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