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The signature of all things
2013
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Henry Whittaker (Male), Businessman, English, Married, Father, Wealthy, Made a great fortune in the South America quinine trade
Alma Whittaker (Female), Botanist, Henry's daughter; researching the mysteries of evolution; falls in love with Ambrose
Ambrose Pike (Male), Artist, Illustrator, Spiritualist,
Genre
Fiction
Historical
Romance
Love story
Topics
Ambition
Love
Spiritual awakening
Wealthy lifestyles
Industrial revolution
Spiritualists
Life choices
Unexpected love
Artists
Botanists
Setting
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Mid-Atlantic States (U.S.)
Pennsylvania - Mid-Atlantic States (U.S.)
England - Europe
Peru - South America
Tahiti - Oceania (Pacific islands)
Netherlands - Europe
Time Period
1800s -- 19th Century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) returns to fiction with a sprawling 19th-century saga about a young botanist, Alma Whittaker. Alma's fascination with plants (mosses in particular), combined with her recently broken heart, leads her from her birthplace of Philadelphia to Tahiti and, eventually, to the formulation of her "Theory of Competitive Alteration." Substitute finches for mosses and the Galapagos Islands for Tahiti, and you will see where Alma is headed with her ideas about how plant life evolves in order to survive. Beautifully read by the English actress Juliet Stevenson, this audiobook encompasses Alma's experiences with natural science, love, loss, and enlightenment and delivers a cracking good story in the process. -VERDICT Highly recommended. ["Gilbert's (Stern Men) first novel in 13 years gets off to a strong and compelling start but loses its way midpoint; awkward plot points make the second half feel at times like another book entirely," read the less impressed review of the Viking hc, LJ 10/1/13.]-Wendy Galgan, St. Francis Coll., Brooklyn (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

From the author of Eat, Pray, Love comes this sweeping tale of one family's journey from rags to riches. Spanning two centuries and set in numerous countries, the novel follows the exploits of the Whittaker family, beginning with Henry Whittaker, an impoverished man from England who makes his fortune in South America. With such a massive narrative task at hand, narrator Stevenson never ceases to impress in this lengthy yet enriching performance. Her English accent and sensitive but firm reading perfectly matches the author's prose. The reading is clear and steady, and Stevenson creates a sense of intimacy between herself and the listener that never dissipates during the course of this audio edition. A Viking hardcover. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic, and City of Girls <br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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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