A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the #1 New York Times bestselling 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 eighteenth and nineteenth 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 readers.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
After the release of her breakthrough memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert returned to fiction with this sprawling novel set against the scientific and cultural tumult of the 19th century. Alma Whittaker, the brilliant and sexually frustrated daughter of a millionaire explorer, becomes an internationally renowned botanist, traveling the globe in search of scientific knowledge. British actress Juliet Stevenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply) tackles Gilbert’s exquisitely researched historical novel with soft-spoken grace, allowing the characters to flourish as organically as the plants Alma’s so passionate about. Who knew mosses and orchids could be this enticing?
Customer ReviewsSee All
I've enjoyed other books by this author, and the subject matter is particularly interesting to me, so I'd looked forward to this book. Sadly, the scientific and historical details that could have been interesting, were not sufficient to excuse the serious flaws that made me thoroughly regret buying it. All the characters, except the protagonist, were extremely superficial and unbelievable. The author's endless obsession with aberrant sexual behaviors resulted in an insulting portrayal of a supposedly brilliant female scientist as a shallow selfish illogical pervert. The book is set in a time when few women had opportunities to obtain advanced education, or pursue careers in science. The author demeaned the efforts of all women who have struggled to educate themselves, to contribute to our understanding of the natural world and to improve the quality of life for others. On a purely literary basis, there are so many flaws it isn't even worthy of the time required to list them.
Once again I was captivated by Liz Gilbert’s beautiful expression of a very real journey of life.
This audiobook was great for easy listening. A little bit of romance but mainly wonderful scenery and the journey of Alma in the 1800- 1870 th. nice historical backgrounds.