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
We were captivated by this grand historical novel. Elizabeth Gilbert—best known for her autobiographical Eat, Pray, Love—takes us on a different kind of journey here. Beginning with the birth of a baby girl in Philadelphia in 1800, The Signature of All Things sweeps us from London to Peru, Tahiti, and Amsterdam. Gilbert paints each place in rich detail and explores big ideas about science and curiosity. Alma is an extraordinary, brilliant, and flawed heroine, who yearns for experiences beyond family and duty and loves passionately and tragically. We didn’t want to leave her side for a moment.
From the author of Eat, Pray, Love comes this sweeping tale of one family's journey from rags to riches. Spanning two centuries and set in numerous countries, the novel follows the exploits of the Whittaker family, beginning with Henry Whittaker, an impoverished man from England who makes his fortune in South America. With such a massive narrative task at hand, narrator Stevenson never ceases to impress in this lengthy yet enriching performance. Her English accent and sensitive but firm reading perfectly matches the author's prose. The reading is clear and steady, and Stevenson creates a sense of intimacy between herself and the listener that never dissipates during the course of this audio edition. A Viking hardcover.
Enjoyable read, great characters
If you like well developed characters you’ll like this book. The relationships between the characters are wonderfully developed too. I also really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the development of science and botany over the course of the 19th century and I thought the details of Henry Whittaker’s journey from botany to pharmaceuticals was fascinating.
My favorite part of the book would have to be the thing that bothered Alma the most: if kindness serves no evolutionary function why do we show it?
It’s a good read. It slows towards the middle but picks back up for a good ending.
A Jewel of a Book
Certainly one of the best books of this, or any, year. Not being a fan of Eat, Pray, Love, I was hesitant to order this, but am so glad I did. Beautifully written with such timely plotting and wonderful characterizations; just a delight.
The Signature of All Things
Incredible! This books brings to life a world long gone and adds layers of a historical tapestry that completely engrosses the reader. I loved this book and wished it could continue on and on. All the characters were rich and dynamically developed - people one would wish to know. Plot twists made for an exciting story and it informed me about how science developed in the Victorian era. Awesome read!