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 loved the narration and the story. I sometimes struggle to find books that are rich and deep but aren't full of disturbing violence, graphic depictions of terrible suffering, or upsetting endings. This novel had all the depth I desire but none of that darker stuff. I wish I could find more like it.
The beginning of the book was wonderful, but the author lost her way halfway through, and as I neared the end I kept waiting for the big reveal, which didn't come. Again, the first half was truly a story, but the second half was a confused mess of philosophy, boring and unsatisfying.
Initially excitement, then confusion and boredom.
Juliet Stevenson is one of my favorite actresses and readers and, as always, she did a beautiful job with this book.
I love to listen and learn!
A very heavy story about the beauty and disappointments of life. Life of all forms, not just humans. About the trials and tribulations of life in general. Not predictable in thw least.
If there had been a stronger plot; this had so much potential, but just becomes a relating of somewhat connected life events. It stays small, like Alma's obsession with moss.
I might read one of her books, but this wasn't entertaining enough for the audio format.
I liked the story, but then at about the three quarter mark the story just got unbelievable. In the end it was not one of my favorites. Great performance by Juliet Stevenson though.
I only finished this book out of a sense of duty. It is a very long and broad story that attempts to accomplish a lot. It has some beautiful ideas.
One woman's life
Alma. A 20th century woman living in the 19th century. Educated but not worldly. It is a shame that she really never left her home until she was in her 50s. She really didn't start to live until then.
Juliet Stevenson's voice is just so easy to listen to; one of my favorite readers.
I really dislike the main character of this book. she is extremely selfish does not have many redeeming qualities. I honestly like the introduction more. her actions are irrefutably selfish. It's just not my thing.
This book seems like it should have taken decades to write. The prose are so beautiful and area appropriate. This covers science, religion, history, and many more topics all in the story of one amazing lady. We learn of the generations before her and her trips around the globe. Liz knocks this one out of the park !
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