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Synopsis

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 new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, on sale now!


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.

Book Reviews

The Signature of All Things
Average rating
4.1 / 5
Read, Love
November 12th, 2014
One of my favourite books EVER....a fantastically winding, delicious story starring a great character. This is a good book club pick, there's lots to discuss on the power and meaning of "love", and the place of women in society -- our heroine gets to be a career girl for two big reasons: she's plain, and she's rich and so is absolved of the 'need' to marry. Discuss.
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1 review
The Signature of All Things
October 15th, 2014
Great story of a courageous woman. Entrancing and stimulating!
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1 review
The Signature of All Things
August 1st, 2014
This is a good read, and a long one. It follows a family through two generations. I would say it drags in last third of book and then ends well. I recommend it to plant lovers everywhere and actually to all lovers.
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1 review
The Signature of all Things
June 19th, 2014
Profound...compelling... Beautifully written.
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1 review
Mom
June 8th, 2014
Enjoyable, relaxing read. Refreshing, just something different.
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1 review
Different
May 2nd, 2014
Great story of an extraordinary woman
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1 review
March 6th, 2014
Great storyline, but perhaps a bit too long. I found myself lost in pages of descriptive writing. I think I was expecting more.
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1 review
February 25th, 2014
I am wondering if Elizabeth Gilbert is a better fiction writer than a non-fiction writer after reading this book. Profound, delightful and feminist - an unbelievable combination.
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1 review
January 29th, 2014
I could hardly put this book down for about the first half. It seemed like a lot of things were happening all at once and It was really exciting. But the second half for me fell a little bit short, though it was still a comfortable and pleasing read overall.
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1 review
January 27th, 2014
Great book, first one of hers that I have read, but will be looking for more by her now
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1 review
January 25th, 2014
It's been a while since I've fallen into a book as quickly and happily as I have with Elizabeth Gilbert's latest novel. I am absolutely enthralled by the writing. I love the characters and I am loathe to finish the book because I don't want to say goodbye to them. The story has evoked gasps, laughter, and already a few tears, as well as a few moments of, "I never knew that!" Truly a fantastic book.
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1 review
January 25th, 2014
This is a wonderful account of the life of a woman scientist at a time when such a concept was inconceivable. The rest of her life is just as nonconformist, not surprisingly. I found this a good read.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
This novel allows the reader to become part of a world where one woman shows she can be a strong, resilient survivor in the face of everything a difficult family life and upbringing can throw at her. The wonderful and vivid descriptions of the amazing world of orchids and mosses carries the reader through the many years that span this incredible life journey. Could not put it down.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
An excellent read. Moves along briskly and was hard to put down. I enjoyed this book more than Eat, Pray, Love. Highly recommendable.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert it's an historical fiction novel that enthrals a story of adventure, love and discovery. It sets, for the most part, in the eighteenth century and narrates the life of an extraordinary family. Henry Whittaker, a poor Englishman who became a botanical explorer and made a great fortune in the science field of medicinal plant development. Henry's wife, Beatrix Whittaker, is an expert botanist with a strong disposition. The central character, Alma Whittaker is a brilliant minded person who becomes a botanist as well. As Alma carefully studies moss and the mysteries of evolution within the mosses itself, many other naturalist such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace are desperate to understand the workings and mechanisms behind all life in different ramifications. Elizabeth Gilbert portraits an extraordinary era in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. This novel has an engaging plot that will take you across the globe from London to South America to Amsterdam to Philadelphia to French Polynesia and beyond. It will keep you captivated in the Enlighten era of the 1800's. Gilbert's exquisitely deep, sagacious and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
GREAT BOOK TO READ & BEST OF ALL TIMES..............
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
I was disappointed in the book. There were portions written about her private times, that did not add anything to the book or storyline.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
Interesting but rambles a bit. Good for long read on a quiet evening if you've nothing else to do. Not for those seeking excitement or an easy read. Its quite intense with the author expressing views on all sorts of topics. Personally I found it a little laborious and ended up skim reading large sections.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
A new direction for Elizabeth Gilbert best known for Eat, Pray, Love however a wonderful read. The book moved at a steady pace and kept you wanting to read on. This book won't disappoint you. There is nothing predictable and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you wanting more.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
An easy ready with many levels and interesting characters. The story is always twisting and turning leading you to new adventures and new ideas.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
Amazing book, touches you straight to the heart
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
best book ever. amazingly book
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
A wonderful story that captured my imagination. I love the way Alma is sketched as a non-conformer to what was expected from ladies in those times. She is a character who believed in her dreams, who overcame her challenges and who ended up doing what she loves and thus living a content life.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
A very interesting read. I was a bit nervous about the subject matter since it is a departure from her previous books, but I was pleased with the book. She did her research and it shows up on the page. If you have liked her previous works check this one out.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
Fantastic book couldn't read it fast enough.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
I could not get into "eat pray love", but I really got into this one. It was a page turner and I was really interested to uncover the fate of the characters
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
I really enjoyed this historical novel as it covered some of Australia's early history. A very different book to Eat Pray Love from Elizabeth Gilbert. Her characters are well developed and the natural history was very interesting.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
Great historical saga. Well worth a read.
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
I found this book really enjoyable and interesting. I think Elizabeth Gilbert has really managed to convey the sense of excitement that existed in Victorian times when new scientific discoveries were being made that challenged long held beliefs. She has also created characters that are interesting but still believable. A recommended read
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1 review
January 23rd, 2014
An engrossing read. Set in the time of the expansion of scientific knowledge in the 1800's. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. About someone who planned to make her life count, and to have a good personal relationship. A life of curiosity and commitment. Unfortunately the desired relationship didn't work out but the main female character, Alma, was able to explore her passion for plants in many different settings. This book is the opportunity to enjoy a vicarious adventure..
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1 review
January 22nd, 2014
Long and sometimes difficult, but very pleased I pushed through. Characters are a fascinating bunch and Alma is a force to be reconed with.
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1 review
January 22nd, 2014
I've read a number of Elizabeth Gilbert's other books so I know she writes well. Still, I was initially reluctant to read this as it's such a departure from her previous nonfiction. But I loved it! It sucked me in from the moment I picked it up: a rollicking adventure with a strong female protagonist who is smart but not beautiful. So refreshing! It reminds me of Isabel Allende's more recent fiction: historical but with a smattering of magic realism. Excellent.
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1 review
January 22nd, 2014
This book is a huge departure from Elizabeth Gilbert's previous offerings and a great delight. It successfully combines interesting historical facts with adventure, travel and insight into little known botanical studies. The latter may sound dry, but it is fascinatingly woven into what, quite frankly, is, at times, a titilating journey for the reader. It portrays well the social mores of women of that era.
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1 review
January 22nd, 2014
this is not a book I would normally read but due to a favourable review in a national newspaper I thought I would try it and to my delight I thoroughly enjoyed this intriguing story line. It is beautifully written and a real page turner, I would recommend it without reservation.
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1 review
The Signature of All Things
January 8th, 2014
Wonderfully engaging. Beautifully written
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1 review
My most recent and favorite read
January 4th, 2014
Marvelous, just marvelous.
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1 review
The Signature of all Things
November 2nd, 2013
A thought provoking read and quite good:-)
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1 review
The signature of all things
October 31st, 2013
Enjoyable pleasant read, light but detailed.
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1 review
The signature of all things
October 28th, 2013
Wonderful and thought provoking read. Couldn't put it down
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2 reviews
The signature of all things
October 28th, 2013
Wonderful and thought provoking read. Couldn't put it down
Helpful? Yes | No | Report

2 reviews

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