The Signature of All Things: A Novel

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Penguin Group US | October 1, 2013 | Kobo Edition (eBook)

The Signature of All Things: A Novel is rated 3.7273 out of 5 by 11.
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.



Format: Kobo Edition (eBook)

Published: October 1, 2013

Publisher: Penguin Group US

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1101638001

ISBN - 13: 9781101638002

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from it was ok When I invest the time to read a book this long. I want to be blown away. I want to come away from the book feeling like I added something to my life and missing the characters for a few days afterwards. I didn't feel that way. It started out like that and I really enjoyed many parts of this book including the science. It was the storyline about Ambrose that ruined it for me. I think the story of longing and unrequited feelings, disappointing relationship/ phases of grief was weak and frankly boring. Unfortunately, it was most of the book or I would have given it a better rating. There were many other parts of the book that could have been developed further, her relationship with her family etc. I frequently reread my books, even long ones like this. I always recommend books and lend them out. I can say I will do none of those things with this one. The best I can say is, if you really feel like reading but don't have any other options, sure, go for it.
Date published: 2013-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Epic Masterpiece!! The Signature of All Things begins in the 1700’s with Henry Whittaker. Being immensely poor for his family had nothing, Henry decides to become a man of his own making. As a young lad he stole from the Royal Botanical Kew Gardens various types of flowers and barks used in the pharmaceutical business to cure people’s ills. Sir Joseph Banks was the Director and he finally caught young Henry. But by this time, Henry had already amassed a little fortune for himself but admitted nothing to Sir Banks. As a punishment for stealing from him, Banks sent Henry to far off places to learn all he could about plants. He was to keep copious clear and concise notes and provide sketches for everything he studied. The conditions on the ships he travelled were absolutely abhorrent but Henry never so much as complained once. He took everything in his stride. When the young adult Henry returned to England he had decided to make it his life’s work and aimed to become the richest man in the world. He married, Beatrix, a Dutch woman who was well-educated and they moved to Pennsylvania. Henry had already amassed such a sizable fortune by this time that he built himself an overly elaborate estate which he named ‘White Acre.’ The people of Pennsylvania were in awe of the this mansion on the hill and the elaborate and beautiful gardens. Together, Beatrix and Henry had one daughter whom they named, Alma and a few years later adopted another girl named, Prudence who was suddenly in one night left without a family. Prudence was a strikingly beautiful and small as Alma was homely and large. The sisters could never become close. Henry valued education and the girls were schooled at home by their mother and a tutor until they were eighteen-years-old. Alma followed the path of scientific explanation, loving to study plants, trees, barks, and mosses like her father had. She ended up with a specialty in Bryology, the study of mosses. Alma’s life did not always go the way she had hoped and often suffered greatly. She struggled for years and years to find personal happiness and fulfillment. The Signature of All Things is an epic masterpiece that should be read by all. The way the prose and language Gilbert used is hauntingly beautiful and something which I enjoyed very much. The writing was fresh, the characters so well fleshed out you felt like you knew them personally. The descriptive narrative made it easy to hear, see, and smell everything the characters did as if you’d gone through the pages of the book and into the story itself. I would very, very highly recommend this book to anyone and would like to say “thank you” Ms. Gilbert for the best two days of reading I’ve done in a while.
Date published: 2013-11-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Read But... I received the free advanced copy from Chapters as I really enjoyed Gilbert's Eat, Love, Pray and Committed. I was excited to read her new book The Signature of All Things - however I agree with comments made by others. The book was a good read, with well developed characters and storyline. But the story could have been shorter as it did at times drag on and I too lost interest in the book and would revisit after several days. It could have done better without the explicit sexual references and just focused on unfulfilled love and expectations. I really enjoyed the glimpse into the world of botany and was impressed with Gilbert's research into the field. All in all it was a good read and will pass the book along for others to enjoy.
Date published: 2013-10-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting novel The story line was interesting and the characters were well developed. I just found at times the story dragged on a bit; there'd be times I wouldn't read for a few days at a time just because I had lost some interest. It wouldn't be the first book I'd recommend to friends to read.
Date published: 2013-10-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Great Read I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reader copy of The Signature of All Things to review. Having enjoyed her previous books, I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, since it's a bit of a different direction. However, I really enjoyed the story. The characters were compelling, and I found myself actually taking my time to read the story slowly rather than rushing through it. I found myself wanting to take time to get to know Alma throughout her life, and I didn't want it to end, despite the slow pace of the story. It truly does feel as though Alma lived her life in moss time as she had a long and compelling life. I would definitely recommend this book, and I recommend taking your time to really enjoy the story of Alma Whittaker.
Date published: 2013-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read not the typical book i would go for, but very glad i had the opportunity to read this. definitely different from her other books. Couldn't put it down, I really enjoyed this read.
Date published: 2013-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful - and surprising - read I received an advance copy of this book from Indigo to read and review and I am very glad for that. It is hard for me to believe that this is the same author as Eat Pray Love (which I enjoyed but not at all in the same way.) To me the only similarity is the richness of the minor character and geographic range. The writing is clever and the characters are so rich and interesting. Of course, Alma is fascinating, but many of the other character are so well drawn, that you imagine that you would know them if you met them on the street. I loved Rev. Welles, Reta, Prudence, Hanneke, and the list goes on. Obviously an incredible amount of research went into the book - and on such odd topics - who would have thought to enjoy reading is such detail about moss! The book maintains a quick pace and it is hard to put down. The ending is simply beautiful. Thank you for letting me read this book and share my thoughts.
Date published: 2013-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Wonderful! As a disclaimer: I received an advanced reading copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's book, The Signature of All Things, directly from Penguin Canada, through a Chapters/Indigo promotion, with their desire for me to provide a review, though I'm not obligated to. To be fair, I may not have picked this book up on my own. The synopsis does sound intriguing, but so did that of Eat, Pray, Love. For that book, I made the mistake of watching the movie first; I loved the movie, but just simply could not get into the book. I cannot compare the two, as I never gave that one a fair chance. I am extremely happy I did end up with this book being put into my hands. Once I started reading, I could not put it down. I loved her writing. I had the sense of the story moving along at a good pace, never wondering how much time had actually lapsed in the story, while getting the important highlights. I enjoyed the language used by the narrator to the reader, such as to advise me that we'll learn about her father while we wait for Alma to grow to an age to "catch our interest". At many times, I found myself laughing outright with some of the statements made, such as the description of how her father went looking for a wife, or when her mother berates the neighbour for crying over her maid's grandmother who had died three years earlier. I found The Signature of All Things to be a great story, with strong, believable characters. It was refreshing to read the story of an extremely intelligent and capable woman, raised by strong independent parents, and to follow her life of scientific pursuit. At the end, I found myself wanting. Not wanting for more detail of this story. There's room for it, certainly, but it would have ruined the lightness that this story had. Not wanting it to end, I suppose, but the ending was just right. I suppose I will have to go and read Ms. Gilbert's other books, to see if that will satisfy me now. I would suggest others do not make the same mistake that I made; either to think to avoid this one because they liked Eat, Pray, Love, or vice versa. Take this book on its own - following the life of a brilliant female botanist in the 1800's, travelling the minutiae as well as the world. I enjoyed every bit of it, and I highly recommend it to others.
Date published: 2013-09-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from So-So I was dreading this book would be too much like the last two books I read by Gilbert and I'd get bored quick but it wasn't. It was fresh and would have been wonderful, but I lost interest with the sex descriptions. They weren't all that necessary and because of them I don't find myself recommending this book to friends or family. Its a shame that 5 pages out of 500 can have that effect.
Date published: 2013-09-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed Feelings (This is going to be a long one) Alma Whittaker is a woman of science. She lives in a world of plants and innovation. Her intelligence allows her easily to navigate complicated biological and scientific processes. It is real life she has trouble with. In a way, this novel is about her coming to terms with the need to study the intricacies of the human experience just as fervently as she studies her mosses. I am at odds with this book. On the one hand, Gilbert absolutely fascinated me with a certain "old world" charm. I loved the unique idea of a family of rich botanists, I liked the beauty and the care with which the characters regarded themselves and each other. I found Henry and Alma to be engaging characters, if a little strange. I like how Gilbert did not sacrifice the integrity of the book for typical characteristics of a bestseller. I like that there was no idealism in neither the plot, nor the in the characters. Still, though, I could not bring myself to love it. I was captivated only for the first 150 pages, the rest seemed to be written in moss time rather than in human time. It was slow, tedious and intricate. Although it was still enjoyable, it would be a more captivating story if it was 3/4 of the size. I kept wishing that all the exciting parts of Alma's life had happened earlier, and the ending had no definitive "ahhh, I understand now" feeling. It was as though something crucial was missing, and so it was more difficult to believe the sincerity of the story. To my surprise, Gilbert again revisits the theme of discovering some truth by travelling to a faraway exotic place -- whether that truth is about the self, about another, about paradise or about the strange workings of the heart. Wonder, beauty, divinity...they are all good old friends of Gilbert's work and they follow the Whittakers even through the stale, commonplace moments of their lives. I found this a little bit redundant, but other fans of Gilbert may enjoy these elements. Now although I wasn't thoroughly impressed with the book as a whole, I was impressed with Gilbert's courage to stretch herself into a new type of narrative where imagination reigns. I would still recommend this read, just make sure you give yourself a lot of time with this one.
Date published: 2013-09-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engrossing, Page Turner with Fascinating Characters I think Elizabeth Gilbert has a gift, the ability to engross the reader with her writing. As a fan of her her previous book, Committed, I was not disappointed. The characters and the story itself are strong. I could tell that a lot of thought and research went into writing this book.Only low points were stereotypes but overall they didn't hurt my enjoyment of this book.
Date published: 2013-07-29

– More About This Product –

The Signature of All Things: A Novel

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Format: Kobo Edition (eBook)

Published: October 1, 2013

Publisher: Penguin Group US

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1101638001

ISBN - 13: 9781101638002

From the Publisher

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.



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