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Publisher's Summary

Elizabeth Gilbert’s first novel in twelve years is an extraordinary story of botany, exploration and desire, spanning across much of the 19th century. This audiobook follows the fortunes of the brilliant Alma Whittaker (daughter of a bold and charismatic botanical explorer) as she comes into her own within the world of plants and science. As Alma’s careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she loves draws her in the opposite direction into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose is a Utopian artist. But what unites this couple is a shared passion for knowing, a desperate need to understand the workings of this world, and the mechanism behind of all life. The Signature of All Things is a big novel, about a big century. Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, this story soars across the globe, from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam and beyond. It is told in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time. Alma Whittaker is a witness to history, as well as maker of history herself. She stands on the cusp of the modern, with one foot still in the Enlightened Age, and she is certain to be loved by listeners across the world.
©2013 Elizabeth Gilbert (P)2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
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Customer Reviews

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By Jane on 06-07-14

Superb

This has the sedate, carefully structured, beautifully nuanced atmosphere of a nineteenth century classical novel. Appropriate, since that is the setting. This is underlined by the glorious, melting intelligence of the ever-superb reading of Juliet Stevenson.

This is many novels. Broadly, it is about the British dominating the globe through individual strivings, even personal sacrifices, both at home and abroad. It is relationships and dealing with loneliness (the sexual tension was very well done), family, mandated personal self sufficiency. Life and meaning -- where there is no apparent meaning; and the courage to generate meaning. Each and every character lives.

It is also a novel that reaches over time. It visits the theories of evolution. For those who are comfortable with the conclusions of Darwin and Wallace amongst others, it is a journey into the minds of those who walked this path and wonderfully sympathetic to the limits imposed on Victorian women which denied the full flowering of their brilliance; it is an eloquent sharing of these thought processes for those who continue the doubts of those now long distant times.

It is an introduction to new worlds. I now look at mosses completely differently -- and with real appreciation and curiosity!

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful


By Nikita on 01-25-14

Cruel yet fabulous!

What did you love best about The Signature of All Things?

The depth and choice of words was awesome. The characters are very interesting individuals and Elizabeth does a really good job of making them come to live. There are surprising twists and turns, I could never guess what would happen next. Though I really admired the strength and resilience of Alma Whittiker, on many instances, I really wished the author would give her break from denying her the most basic emotional support and comforts. At times I felt so sorry for Alma that I would have sent my own husband to her!

What other book might you compare The Signature of All Things to and why?

None, I think this is the 1st of the kind for me.

Which scene was your favorite?

The most memorable was in the cave with Tomorrow Morning. It reinforces my earlier comments on the unpredictability of this book. One moment, both Almer and Tomorrow Morning are mourning the death of a man they both loved, the next they shared sexual pleasures! How bizarre - she finds a man that had sex with her man, then she gave him a blowjob too! And funny enough, it felt sweet.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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By Suzanna on 02-12-15

Fascinating

Juliet Stevenson could read the phone book and make it engrossing. Having 'read' Middlemarch which she was the voice of, I was delighted to find her narrating this. She is a pleasure to listen to and manages all the voices and characters expertly. The book is a curiosity which is ironic as it is all about curiosity, the mind, enquiry and debate. It covers the varied theories and strands do scientific thought in the 1800s through the long life if it's heroine Alma Whittaker. An informative and surprising read.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful


By hfffoman on 04-24-15

Sensitively written but ultimately dull

Any additional comments?

This isn't badly written. it gives a sensitive portrait of the heroine's life and describes her world - 19th century botany, competently. Unfortunately, after the interesting beginning, I found it dull and, as it proceeded, more dull until I stopped reading just over half way through. It contains little dialogue to enliven it and what dialogue it does contain is in a ponderous style which is anything but enlivening. Maybe people did have dull lives and talk ponderously in the 19th century but the great 19th century novelists managed to make them interesting.<br/><br/>It gives a strong perspective of the problems of a woman suffering from the combination of emotional deprivation and intellectual brilliance. I like that combination. The book also has a mystical angle which may suit some readers more than others. The title is a reference to a real mystical book which can be bought on Amazon.<br/><br/>The theme of the emotionally deprived woman scientist is dealt with much more richly in a couple of other novels I have read. These are The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams and Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Both are delightfully multilayered as well as entertaining.

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16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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By Elizabeth on 05-20-16

A beautifully written story

I loved this story and highly recommend it. The whole story was beautifully written and I was hooked from the start. The characters and their relationships were well developed and I felt an emotional connection to them. There were many interesting discussions of philosophical and scientific ideas pertinant to the time (18th and 19th centuries) that led to me taking pearls of wisdom for my own life. It was never dry or boring. I really liked the performance as well, the characters were easy to tell apart and the voice was soothing to listen to.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Nivek Thompson on 01-18-15

Engrossing story of one woman's life

A fabulous story. I couldn't turn the audio off. I loved Alma - what a life !
Well written and nicely read.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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