The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things

By Elizabeth Gilbert

  • Release Date: 2013-10-01
  • Genre: Literary
The Signature of All Things book review score

4 Score: 4 (From 1,288 Ratings)

The Signature of All Things Elizabeth Gilbert Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars

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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User reviews about this book

  • MEH

    By Schmidteg
    Not the best book I have read!
  • Slooowww

    By lthoma2
    Boring beyond belief.
  • Amazing story, beautifully told

    By Reads-at-night
    This story was fascinating, and incredibly well written. Elizabeth Gilbert knows how to use language. It is a romance, a generational saga, a travelogue, a history, and a scientific treatise—a masterpiece of fiction.
  • Dry and endless

    By Aaddesgg
    Needs heavy editing ... and a plot.
  • Enjoyable read, great characters

    By Jayline87
    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 masterpiece!

    By Economan1
    I’m not 68, very widely read, and a lover of many disciplines. This book ranks among the best I’ve read. It is quite simply a tour de force, spanning science, literature, psychology, history, religion, travel, and love. The author can expect to die happily, having left something of real value and inspiration for generations to come, much as Alma Whittaker felt in her last days.
  • Signature of All Things

    By LRL820
    One of the most engrossing and excellent books I’ve read in the past decade.
  • Brilliant!

    By davidsumnernyc
    Brilliant! Gilbert at her very best. Possibly her best writing to date. An epic by any measure- one that delights. I hated that it ended.
  • Surprisingly Awesome

    By TWJane
    I did not know what to expect, but I just loved it. So well written.
  • Bittersweet, far reaching and comprehensive

    By DeDaSon
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As an avid reader it was nice to read a book that had both length and depth to it.

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