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The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert

Paperback

Published: 1st October 2013
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5th January 1800.

Alma Whittaker is born into a perfect Philadelphia winter. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant in Sir Joseph Banks' Kew Gardens and as a deck hand on Captain Cook's HMS Resolution. Alma’s mother, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, is conversant in five living languages (and two dead ones).

An independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, it is not long before Alma comes into her own within the world of botany. But as Alma’s careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction.

The Signature of All Things is a big novel, about a big century. It soars across the globe from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam. Peopled with extraordinary characters - missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses and the quite mad - most of all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker, a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern.

Read Caroline Baum Review

I love this book without reservation. For its breadth, ambition and generosity of spirit, its curiosity and sense of inquiry, its connection to the natural world and the life of the mind and its celebration of the body. I love the fact that it celebrates a brilliant woman who although fictional, could have existed. I love the fact that it is all about knowledge as a noble pursuit and about pleasure for pleasure's sake.

Alma Whittacker is an unforgettable character: plain but clever, pulsating with curiosity about all things, big and small. Born in privilege at the beginning of the nineteenth century, she is a lady botanist but soon discovers desires of her own that are anything but ladylike. Her quest for knowledge and love take her to Tahiti and beyond, on a journey that is as much of an adventure for the reader as it is for Alma.

I don't want to say more, because the joy of this book is to discover the world as Alma does, while being grateful that we live in more enlightened times. The book is full of wonder and such well-timed surprises, that laughter and tears stole up on me without warning. It also left me in awe of Gilbert's luminous prose, and her ability to be both light of touch and profound of meaning, dispelling any notion that Eat Pray Love was her defining work. A triumph that should win everything.



About the Author

Elizabeth Gilbert is the acclaimed author of five books of fiction and non-fiction. She is most well known for her 2006 bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, which has sold over ten million copies worldwide and was made into a film starring Julia Roberts. Her short story collection Pilgrims was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award, her novel Stern Men was a New York Times Notable Book and The Last American Man was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent work, Committed, was a Number One New York Times bestseller. Elizabeth Gilbert lives in New Jersey.

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

by PowerReviews
The Signature of All Things
 
3.8

(based on 9 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (4)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (2)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (1)

67%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Engaging characters (7)
  • Well written (6)
  • Informative (5)
  • Easy to read (4)
  • Page-turner (3)

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Older readers (4)
    • Gift (3)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Bookworm (5), Casual reader (3)

    Reviewed by 9 customers

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    5.0

    Fabulous Read

    By Leafy

    from NSW, Australia

    About Me Bookworm

    Pros

    • Deserves Multiple Readings
    • Easy To Read
    • Engaging characters
    • Informative
    • Page-Turner
    • Well Written

    Cons

      Best Uses

        Comments about The Signature of All Things:

        Have been a fan of this writer since I read 'Stern Men' many years ago. Read 'Eat Love & Pray' before it was 'discovered' so to speak. This book is incredibly well researched, apart from enjoying the tale with its twists and turns this book helped me understand much in the botanical world and the connections with Charles Darwin. When I finished it I found it hard to believe just how much I enjoyed it.

        Comment on this review

         
        3.0

        if you've got nothing else to do….

        By Wintoram

        from Melbourne

        About Me Bookworm

        Pros

        • Engaging characters

        Cons

        • Disappointing
        • Not What I Expected

        Best Uses

        • Older Readers

        Comments about The Signature of All Things:

        Overall I enjoyed the read, but I definitely wasn't ignoring my family or even the housework to be able to read.

        When A book is amazing I usually have trouble putting it down…

        The characters were full of depth and interest, which I appreciated. But would have enjoyed one or two happy moments and not so much of the misery (to steal a word from one of the other reviewers).

        Comment on this review

         
        5.0

        I loved this book!

        By Jillbri

        from Sydney

        About Me Casual Reader

        Verified Buyer

        Pros

        • Easy To Read
        • Engaging characters
        • Informative
        • Page-Turner
        • Well Written

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Gift
          • Older Readers
          • Travel Reading

          Comments about The Signature of All Things:

          A beautifully written historical fiction which definitely is a real page turner. I loved it!

          Comment on this review

           
          1.0

          Started well .went downhill

          By Designer

          from Melbourne

          About Me Bookworm

          Pros

          • Loved The Beginning

          Cons

          • Disappointing

          Best Uses

            Comments about The Signature of All Things:

            Really enjoyed the first chapters telling a fascinating tale of Kew Gardens Captain Cook etc
            Then the mood changed into a dark tale that just got worse as one read.So I gave up thinking I won't subject myself to anymore of this twisted tale of misery.

            Comment on this review

             
            4.0

            Good read

            By Lizzy

            from Melbourne AU

            About Me Bookworm

            Verified Buyer

            Pros

            • Easy To Read
            • Engaging characters
            • Informative
            • Well Written

            Cons

              Best Uses

              • Gift

              Comments about The Signature of All Things:

              A really interesting historical novel with a different cast of characters who hold the reader's interest.

              Comment on this review

               
              5.0

              A great read!

              By Juda

              from Crows Nest Queensland

              About Me Bookworm

              Verified Buyer

              Pros

              • Deserves Multiple Readings
              • Easy To Read
              • Engaging characters
              • Informative
              • Page-Turner
              • Well Written

              Cons

                Best Uses

                  Comments about The Signature of All Things:

                  A well researched book that combines that delight of reading a good novel with historical and factual information. Satisfying on many levels.

                  Comment on this review

                   
                  4.0

                  Heavy to read in bed but well worth it

                  By Cha- Cha

                  from Brisbane

                  About Me Everyday Reader

                  Verified Buyer

                  Pros

                  • Engaging characters
                  • Informative
                  • Well Written

                  Cons

                    Best Uses

                    • Gift
                    • Older Readers

                    Comments about The Signature of All Things:

                    An unusual story that kept me fascinated all the way through. Excellent characterisation.

                    Comment on this review

                     
                    5.0

                    Fantastic Novel

                    By zanetha

                    from Perth, AU

                    About Me Casual Reader

                    Pros

                    • Engaging characters

                    Cons

                      Best Uses

                        Comments about The Signature of All Things:

                        Great read, loved it. Felt like I was there.

                        Comment on this review

                        (1 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

                         
                        2.0

                        NOT Eat Love Pray

                        By Tashi

                        from Launceston Tasmania

                        About Me Casual Reader

                        Verified Buyer

                        Pros

                        • 1800 Botany
                        • Well Written

                        Cons

                        • Not What I Expected

                        Best Uses

                        • Older Readers

                        Comments about The Signature of All Things:

                        Free Shipping makes it that much more enjoyable

                        Comment on this review

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                        ISBN: 9781408850114
                        ISBN-10: 1408850117
                        Audience: General
                        Format: Paperback
                        Language: English
                        Number Of Pages: 512
                        Published: 1st October 2013
                        Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
                        Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3  x 4.9
                        Weight (kg): 0.67

                        Elizabeth Gilbert

                        Elizabeth Gilbert is the acclaimed author of five books of fiction and non-fiction. She is most well known for her 2006 bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, which has sold over ten million copies worldwide and was made into a film starring Julia Roberts. Her short story collection Pilgrims was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award, her novel Stern Men was a New York Times Notable Book and The Last American Man was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent work, Committed, was a Number One New York Times bestseller. Elizabeth Gilbert lives in New Jersey.

                        Visit Elizabeth Gilbert's Booktopia Author Page