The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things : A Novel

3.81 (71,363 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.Look out for Elizabeth Gilbert s newest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
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."
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Product details

  • Hardback | 501 pages
  • 147.32 x 231.14 x 45.72mm | 748.42g
  • English
  • New
  • Illustrations, unspecified
  • 0670024856
  • 9780670024858
  • 76,497

Review quote

Praise for "The Signature of All Things" "Gilbert has established herself as a straight-up storyteller who dares us into adventures of worldly discovery, and this novel stands as a winning next act. "The""Signature of All Things" is a bracing homage to the many natures of genius and the inevitable progress of ideas, in a world that reveals its best truths to the uncommonly patient minds." --Barbara Kingsolver, "The New York Times Book Review" "Unlike anything Gilbert has ever written. The book's heroine is Alma Whittaker, the brilliant, restless daughter of an imperious botanical explorer. Its prose has the elegant sheen of a 19th-century epic, but its concerns--the intersection of science and faith, the feminine struggle for fulfillment, the dubious rise of the pharmaceutical industry--are essentially modern...Gilbert has returned to her roots in fiction and written the sort of rip-roaring tale that would have been considered entertainment for the masses 150 years ago." --"The New York Times Magazine" "The most ambitious and purely imaginative work in Gilbert's 20-year career: a deeply researched and vividly rendered historical novel about a 19th century female botanist." --"The Wall Street Journal" "Gilbert has mulled, from the confines of her desk, the correlations of nature, the principle that connects a grain of sand to a galaxy, to create a character who does the same - who makes the study of existence her life's purpose. And in doing so, she has written the novel of a lifetime." -- "O, The Oprah Magazine" "Gilbert's sweeping saga of Henry Whittaker and his daughter Alma offers an allegory for the great, rampant heart of the 19th century...Characters leap into life, visible and vibrant... A brilliant exercise of intellect and imagination."--"Kirkus Reviews" "Gilbert has returned to fiction, and clearly she's reveling in all its pleasures and possibilities...[an] unhurried, sympathetic, intelligent novel by
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About Elizabeth Gilbert

ElizabethGilbert is the #1New York Timesbestselling author ofEat Pray Love, Big Magic, and several other internationally bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction. She began her career writing forHarper's Bazaar, Spin, The New York Times MagazineandGQ, and was a three-time finalist for the National Magazine Award. Her story collectionPilgrimswas a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award;The Last American Manwas a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The follow-up memoirCommittedbecame an instant #1New York Timesbestseller. Her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, was named a Best Book of 2013 byThe New York Times, O Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, andThe New Yorker. Gilbert s short fiction has appeared inEsquire, Story, One Story, and theParis Review.

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Rating details

71,363 ratings
3.81 out of 5 stars
5 29% (20,634)
4 37% (26,730)
3 23% (16,232)
2 8% (5,512)
1 3% (2,255)

Our customer reviews

I opened this title with anticipation. It is rather sweeping and epic, and Alma Whittaker is an admirable female protagonist, full of intelligence in a time when intelligence in a woman was not valued. There's greed, unrequited love, and adventure as well as unacknowledged self-sacrifice - all elements that should make an absolutely fascinating story. I found myself intrigued at times, bored at others, incredulous at some. I found it a worthwhile read in spite of myself, but don't recommend it for the "light" more
by Julie Smith
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