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The Signature of All Things: A Novel (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Elizabeth Gilbert

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1,9411323,516 (3.92)190
Member:deedeeinfj
Title:The Signature of All Things: A Novel
Authors:Elizabeth Gilbert
Info:Viking Adult (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:fiction

Work details

The Signature of All Things: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert (2013)

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» See also 190 mentions

English (130)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All (132)
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
Loved it on audio, and I'm sure reading it would have been a pleasure. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
One of my favorite books read so far this year. It's definitely my most un-put-downable book of the year. Botany has long been a favorite subject of mine but I have to say that most books involving botany are not as accessible as this book.
This is a story about the Whitaker family and their love of plants. Henry Whitaker is the son of a gardener at Kew Gardens in London. He decides to go out in the world to seek fame and fortune. He starts by traveling around the world collecting plant specimens, and selling them to Kew - or the highest bidder- upon his return. He makes a fortune in pharmaceuticals. He eventually moves to Philadelphia and builds the largest estate - including greenhouses and gardens- in the state. He has a daughter, Alma. Alma grows to love plants and has a special talent for the study of moss. The largest part of the book is Alma's story - her studies, her loneliness, her strange marriage. After her husband dies while in Tahiti - basically exiled there by Alma- she travels there to find out the truth about him, herself and their marriage.
Highly recommended.
. ( )
  VioletBramble | Mar 12, 2017 |
This sweeping book is about the life of fictional character, Alma Whittaker, who is the daughter of a self-made, wealthy botanical entrepreneur. Alma is an only child, born at the turn of the 19th century, and raised on an estate on the outskirts of Philadelphia. She is educated by her mother, the daughter of a botanical family from Amsterdam. So her interest in all things botanical arises from both her nature and nurture.

There are a variety of botanical and biological themes in the book with too many twists and turns to enumerate here. The saga ends toward the end of the century when the theories put forth by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace are being introduced to society.

There is an amazing amount of research evident in this book, including the expeditions of Captain Cook, Joseph Banks role at Kew Gardens, the early botanical treatment of malaria are just some of the topics represented.

The story arc is about Alma, and though the book is well populated, Alma is the only character who is fully developed.

I give it 4 stars. ( )
  tangledthread | Feb 28, 2017 |
Really very good. Hard time believing it's the same author as Eat Pray Love. Great demonstration of raising children in the early 1800s, and expectations thereof. ( )
  JeanetteSkwor | Feb 25, 2017 |
Don't miss this one! The book is simply too wide in focus with numerous themes for me to write a review that would do it justice, so after several false starts, I will simply say that if you disliked Eat, Pray, Love (I was not a fan), don't let it stop you from giving this book a chance.

This sweeping family saga/ historical fiction spans over 8o years, and has a protagonist that is now on my list of all-time favorite fictional characters. I absolutely loved Alma and the supporting characters were wonderful as well.

I think it would have benefitted from tighter editing and there was too much attention given to the solution to her sexual frustrations, but I still found it captivating and compelling with gorgeous writing. She even made botany interesting, a subject on which I have zero interest.

Juliet Stevenson was brilliant as the narrator and truly brought the book to life. I found myself listening every chance I got.

( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
Should finally redefine Gilbert as a writer with an incredible sense of lyricism, and a rare command of and confidence in her story...She makes broad, unresolvable premises — regular-ish human life, with its aspirations and humiliations, her own or her character’s — look easy, by taking nothing for granted, making sharp and unrelenting observations and framing it with a rare positivity and sense of possibility.
 
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.
 
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Epigraph
What life is, we know not. What life does, we know well.
--Lord Perceval
Dedication
For my grandmother
Maude Edna Morcomb Olson
in honor of her hundredth birthday
First words
Alma Whittaker, born with the century, slid into our world on the fifth of January, 1800.
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Book description
Alma, born into luxury in 1800, becomes a gifted botanist like others in her family, but as she delves into the mysteries of evolution she falls in love with a man who pulls her in the opposite direction, into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670024856, Hardcover)

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.


 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"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"--… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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