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The Signature of All Things: A Novel Hardcover – Oct 1 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (Oct. 1 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670024856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670024858
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.9 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 748 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review


Praise for The Signature of All Things

“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.”—Barbara Kingsolver, The New York Times Book Review
 
“[A] rip-roaring tale… Its prose has the elegant sheen of a 19th-century epic, but its concerns — the intersection of science and faith, the feminine struggle for fulfillment, the dubious rise of the pharmaceutical industry — are essentially modern.”—Steve Almond, The New York Times Magazine
 
“The most ambitious and purely imaginative work in Gilbert’s 20-year career:  a deeply researched and vividly rendered historical novel about a 19th century female botanist.”—Alexandra Alter, The Wall Street Journal
 
“A  radiant novel…that rare literary achievement, a big, panoramic novel about life and love…Like Victor Hugo or Emile Zola, Gilbert captures something important about the wider world in The Signature of All Things:  a pivotal moment in history when progress defined us in concrete ways.”—Marie Arana, The Washington Post
 
“A delightful book…one of the best of the year…Gilbert marries the technical, cultural and spiritual with a warm, frankly funny wit… This kind of storytelling is rare – one in which an author can depict the particulars of a moss colony as skillfully as she maps the landscape of the human heart.”—Lizzie Skurnick, “All Things Considered,” NPR
 
“Gilbert’s sumptuous third novel, her first in thirteen years, draws openly on nineteenth-century forebears:  Dickens, Eliot, and Henry James…Gilbert’s prose is by turns flinty, funny, and incandescent.”The New Yorker
 
“Engrossing…The Signature of All Things is one of those rewardingly fact-packed books that make readers feel bold and smart by osmosis.  Alma commits her life to ceaseless study, but reading this vibrant, hot-blooded book about her takes no work at all.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
“Gilbert has mulled, from the confines of her desk, the correlations of nature, the principle that connects a grain of sand to a galaxy, to create a character who does the same – who makes the study of existence her life’s purpose.  And in doing so, she has written the novel of a lifetime.”O, The Oprah Magazine
 
“A fabulous read…Gilbert has returned to fiction with a boisterous historical novel about a 19th-century botanist named Alma Whittaker…Alma’s fabulous brain is a hot pot of scientific knowledge, lonely feminist turmoil and erotic longing.  All of which makes her an irresistible character to accompany through history and around the world.”—Helen Rogan, People
                                                                        
“Raucously ingenious…Signature is not just a historical novel that spans two centuries and many geographies…I found unshackled joy on every page…a novel of brave and lovely ideas.”—Beth Kephart, The Chicago Tribune
 

About the Author

Elizabeth Gilbert is an award-winning writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Her short story collection, Pilgrims, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and her novel, Stern Men, was a New York Times Notable Book. Her 2002 book, The Last American Man, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which has been published in more than thirty languages; a film based on the memoir, starring Julia Roberts, opened in August 2010. Her most recent book, the memoir Committed: A Love Story, appeared in 2010. In 2008, Time magazine named Gilbert one of the most influential people in the world. Her website is www.elizabethgilbert.com.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pamela on Oct. 16 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved this book. Alma Whittaker is a marvellous character, and it is wonderful for once to read about a woman who manages to be compelling without also having to be physically beautiful. All the characters are well drawn and the narrative has a satisfying pace that carries the reader effortlessly into each new phase of the novel. This is a book that I will definitely come back to.....probably more than once.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dan Earle on Oct. 19 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
From page one this is an engaging story. It has adventure, history, botany, social strife, sensuality and compassion. The story is beautifully woven together by its focus being of Alma. I love a book that opens up doors to new explorations and this one certainly did that... Do I really want to jump into the world of Jacob Boehme and Christian mysticism?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brett H #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Nov. 28 2013
Format: Hardcover
This novel spans the nineteenth century, or the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ and is the story of Alma Whittaker, who was born in Philadelphia to extraordinary parents. Her mother, Beatrix, came from a Dutch family of botanists and her father, Henry was born in England, his father being the King’s Apple Magus at Kew. Henry himself had sailed the globe as a young man and had made his fortune by helping the Dutch East India Company to break the Jesuit’s monopoly on Cinchona (Quinine).

From her mother Alma learned many languages and from her father much about botany and how to grow mosses. She became something of an expert on the latter and had books published on their development, cultivation and categorisation. She marries late and the marriage is a failure, but when her father dies Alma decides to retrace her husband’s footsteps to Tahiti and to seek out the truth about the contents of his mysterious valise. This is truly a voyage of discovery which takes her to strange places, not all of which are charted.

When Alma arrives back in her mother’s hometown of Amsterdam she is reunited with her maternal family. She reads of Darwin’s theories of evolution which accord with many of her own ideas and observations. She finds a kindred spirit in Alfred Russell Wallace who has also developed many theories similar to her own but has also never solved the evolutionary explanation for human altruism and self sacrifice.

This is an extraordinary novel of an evolving century, encapsulated in the unlikely form of Alma Whittaker. It is, itself, a voyage of discovery rather than arrival, slow moving rather than pacey and perhaps a little on the lengthy side for my personal preferences. However, it is certainly a thought provoking read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Irina Goundareva on Jan. 15 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just finished reading this amazing novel. I didn't want to put it down! Easy and captivating to read! Simply a masterpiece.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shelley Kean on Jan. 4 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Just finished (reluctantly) this masterful novel. What a story. what an adventure. i loved every page and am so pleased that I tripped upon this book quite accidentally. Well-written, even for a book snob like me. What I also liked was the length. It is a real journey -- one that is thankfully not cut short. i didn't want it to end until the end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ally Alias on Nov. 17 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a woman scientist and author wholly immersed in the study of the natural world in this male dominated field, I relished with great ardor every word on every page. What a rich find! A true piece of literature attempting to illuminate truth between the mechanical and mystical divide. The schizophrenic spilt still predominates in our midst and Gilbert has laid down every nuance of this quantum divide. Well done!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Raymond Lamy on Nov. 10 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is brilliantly written and has some humoristic passages which makes it first class reading. I warmly recommend it!
Ray
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nicole on Dec 6 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am in awe of Elizabeth Gilbert's talent. I have enjoyed every book she's written, and I'm simply amazed at how different they are. Her creativity, intelligence and insight are simply stunning. It restores my faith in humanity knowing that people as profound as her are out there in this big mess of a world.
This book takes a place as one of my all time favourites, which is saying a lot because I'm a reader! First, anyone who can truly weave science into a story like Gilbert has in this book wins my heart. I'm an evolutionary biologist and geneticist, and a huge stickler for accurate science communication (bonus points if you can get make complex scientific concepts interesting and digestible to non-scientists), and Gilbert's descriptions of botany and natural selection, as well as her insight into the scientific method and the mind of a scientist are simply fantastic. And, she does it all in the context of a beautiful story, with amazing character development, insight into history and a provocative look into the boundaries (or lack thereof?) between science and spirituality. I think this may be one of the few books that I'll read more than once. Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for this fantastic piece of literature.
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