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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
 
3.6

(based on 8 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (3)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (2)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (1)

63%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Engaging characters (6)
  • Well written (5)
  • Informative (4)
  • Easy to read (3)

Cons

    Best Uses

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

    Reviewed by 8 customers

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    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

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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