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The Signature of All Things  By  cover art

The Signature of All Things

By: Elizabeth Gilbert
Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
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Publisher's summary

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

Critic reviews

“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...unlike anything Gilbert has ever written.... Its prose has the elegant sheen of a nineteenth-century epic, but its concerns...are essentially modern." (The New York Times Magazine)

"With this novel about a young, nineteenth-century Philadelphia woman who becomes a world-renowned botanist, Gilbert shows herself to be a writer at the height of her powers." (O, The Oprah Magazine, "Our Favorite Reads of the Year")

"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)

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