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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 10 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (4)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (3)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (1)

67%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Engaging characters (8)
  • Well written (7)
  • Informative (6)
  • Easy to read (4)
  • Page-turner (3)

Cons

No Cons

Best Uses

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

Most Liked Positive Review

 

A romping historical fiction

I must admit that this book sat in my bookcase for a couple of years. I was loath to start it after really disliking Eat Love Pray. However, I finally bit the bullet...Read complete review

I must admit that this book sat in my bookcase for a couple of years. I was loath to start it after really disliking Eat Love Pray. However, I finally bit the bullet and am glad I did. It's a romping historical fiction through two generations, starting with Henry, the father, and his development from a lowly deck hand on Captain Cook's HMS Resolution through to an esteemed botanical explorer. The story continues through Alma, his daughter, with her life, both in America and around the world. There were places I found a bit tedious but overall I really enjoyed the story and looked forward to picking it up each night.

VS

Most Liked Negative Review

 

if you've got nothing else to do….

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...Read complete review

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).

Reviewed by 10 customers

Displaying reviews 1-10

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4.0

A romping historical fiction

By 

from Sydney

About Me Everyday Reader

Pros

  • Engaging characters
  • Informative
  • Well Written

Cons

    Best Uses

      Comments about The Signature of All Things:

      I must admit that this book sat in my bookcase for a couple of years. I was loath to start it after really disliking Eat Love Pray. However, I finally bit the bullet and am glad I did. It's a romping historical fiction through two generations, starting with Henry, the father, and his development from a lowly deck hand on Captain Cook's HMS Resolution through to an esteemed botanical explorer. The story continues through Alma, his daughter, with her life, both in America and around the world. There were places I found a bit tedious but overall I really enjoyed the story and looked forward to picking it up each night.

      Comment on this reviewHelp Icon

       
      5.0

      Fabulous Read

      By 

      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 reviewHelp Icon

           
          3.0

          if you've got nothing else to do….

          By 

          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 reviewHelp Icon

           
          5.0

          I loved this book!

          By 

          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 reviewHelp Icon

             
            1.0

            Started well .went downhill

            By 

            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 reviewHelp Icon

               
              4.0

              Good read

              By 

              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 reviewHelp Icon

                 
                5.0

                A great read!

                By 

                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 reviewHelp Icon

                     
                    4.0

                    Heavy to read in bed but well worth it

                    By 

                    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 reviewHelp Icon

                       
                      5.0

                      Fantastic Novel

                      By 

                      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 reviewHelp Icon

                          (1 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

                           
                          2.0

                          NOT Eat Love Pray

                          By 

                          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 reviewHelp Icon

                          Displaying reviews 1-10

                          Back to top

                          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


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