The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things

A Novel

Book - 2013
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"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. he 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"-- Provided by 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. "-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2013
ISBN: 9780670024858
0670024856
Branch Call Number: FICTION GILBERT 2013
Characteristics: 499 pages cm

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blueroo276
Sep 30, 2017

Well-written enough that I did finish it, but I did not enjoy this book. The characters were all "ugly," and I just couldn't make myself care about them.

s
Soundreader
Feb 18, 2017

I was drawn into this historical fiction tale from the first chapter. There is a lot of scientific detail but I found the main character delightful. She is a woman stuck in the wrong century! I enjoyed the questions her character raised in her quest to understand moss, science, love, and the 19th century world around her.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Jan 09, 2017

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, we are introduced to Alma Whittaker, an engaging heroine whose story stretches all the way through the nineteenth century and takes us from Europe to America and on again to Tahiti. Alma’s story is an engaging one even as it is one of self discovery that explores such universal themes as romance, sexuality, death and spirituality/religion. Perhaps the most memorable series of events in the book is the discovery by the main character of books that explore sensuality and which aid her in her attempts to explore her sexuality in the privacy of a broom closet. Alma is a scientist, a botanist to be exact and it is her attempts to understand the world around her through the study of the mysteries hidden in plant life, that help her to begin to understand her identity. It is refreshing that Gilbert refuses adhere to the commonality of the binary theme of good versus evil. There is no clear antagonist here and all that threatens the main character’s happiness is herself and her actions. As is the trend of most historical fiction, some real life historical events play a great deal in creating the background to which the story is set. For Alma it is her discovery of the theory of evolution and the publication of Darwin’s theories which closely resemble hers. The Signature of All Things is a work of prose evocative of beauty and the power of womanhood.
- @TheEccentric of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

w
wtbarrett
Aug 12, 2016

Disappointing. Long and rambling story that lacked substance and a point. I'm sorry I didn''t stop listening after the 2nd or 3rd CD.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 05, 2016

The Signature of All Things is intelligent and certainly thought-provoking, but it is far from riveting. There is a considerable amount of botany in these pages, and readers who find digressions by an author into science WILL find themselves bored repeatedly throughout this novel.

r
robinreads4fun
Apr 26, 2016

This was a book worth reading, but beware - it is a very long book. Not only is it a long book, but it is a long story. Elizabeth Gilbert loves words and she uses almost every word known to the English language, and many from other languages for that matter, in this book. I am glad I read it, if for no other reason than to say that I did, but it's one that I probably won't read again. I did learn a lot about many things, though, not that that is why I read the book. Enjoy, if you have the time to devote to it.

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BeckyR21
Jan 14, 2016

I simply could not get into this book. 100 pages in, and I had no connection to any of the characters, except maybe Prudence. The plot development was so slow and plodding that I simply had to stop. Life is too short for boring books.

Unless you really like Gilbert, don't bother with this one.

h
HAMURCHISON
Dec 26, 2015

Magnificent in it's sweep, filled with gems of imagery, hard to put down. Her tale of Alma is one of the more compelling stories I've read. Don't be swayed away from reading this book by what you may think of this author based on your experience with Eat, Pray, Love.

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beaucoo
Nov 07, 2015

Great fiction novel studying aspects of science, spirituality, colonialism, feminism, and family. The protagonist, Alma Whittaker, is a fascinating character whose life spans the 19th century with one foot in the 18th as the Age of Discovery culminates, and the other in the 20th as scientists begin to explore the inner-workings of the world. I found the beginning section, describing the life of Alma's father and his journey from the son of a poor English peasant to one of the wealthiest men in America fascinating. The rest of the novel is dedicated to Alma's life though, and it's quite a journey. A new favorite.

1
1970wasagoodyear
Sep 10, 2015

compelling read..thoroghly enjoyed

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