Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Signature of All Things” as Want to Read:
The Signature of All Things
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Signature of All Things

by
3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  60,992 Ratings  ·  8,370 Reviews
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
...more
Hardcover, 501 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Riverhead Books (first published May 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Signature of All Things, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Kathy Lies No matter how advanced your child is, I don't think this book is either appropriate nor will hold his attention. It does have some explicit sexual…moreNo matter how advanced your child is, I don't think this book is either appropriate nor will hold his attention. It does have some explicit sexual scenes, and I think that it would bore him to tears. If you want good audio books, look into Jim Weiss's audiobooks. My children grew up with them, and learned Greek mythology, among other literatures, early on by listening in the car. He has a wide variety of cultural works, and tells stories beautifully.(less)
Anastasia It comes from the work of an author Ambrose liked, Jacob Boehme. From page 229: Boehme believed "God had hidden clues for humanity's betterment inside…moreIt comes from the work of an author Ambrose liked, Jacob Boehme. From page 229: Boehme believed "God had hidden clues for humanity's betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit and tree on earth. All the natural world was a divine code, Boehme claimed, containing proof of our Creator's love." Ambrose briefly lost his mind in college after reading Boehme, remember?(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Natalie
Dec 03, 2013 Natalie rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Banafsheh Serov
Dec 04, 2013 Banafsheh Serov rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I'm on page 120 of 512 of The Signature of All Things:I was sceptical. Eat Pray Love was so indulgent and I have as little interest in botany as I do in Indian ashrams. Surprisingly however The signature of All things has so far been delightful.

19/10/13
I have to revise my initial glowing review. Although The Signature of all Things started with much promise, it descended into a pit of humdrum with no view of escape.
I cannot fault Gilbert's writing. Without a doubt she's a gifted & lyrical w
...more
Lee Woodruff
Dec 03, 2013 Lee Woodruff rated it it was amazing
Loved it- that girl can write her way out of a paperbag and as someone who loves plants and flowers-- well-- its my kinda book
Audrey ❦❦❦
Dec 04, 2013 Audrey ❦❦❦ rated it really liked it
I am going to keep this review deliberately vague, because there is nothing I despise more than checking out a review of a potential book and having the whole damn plot laid out before me. It just ruins the whole reading experience, as far as I am concerned. With that being said, this is not an "Eat, Pray, Love" kind of book, nor is it like her God-awful second novel, the name of which escapes me, which was a horrible disappointment.

It is so difficult to describe and categorize this book. It is
...more
Priyank
Nov 02, 2013 Priyank rated it liked it
If you approach this book looking for an Eat, Pray, Love experience (full of pathos and personal insight) you will be sorely disappointed.

I wanted to read The Signature of All Things because I have been a huge fan of Liz Gilbert (both as a person and for her narrative style) for a long time now, and my experience reading this book has been a mixture of enjoyment and frustration, with the scales ultimately tipping to a kind of resigned satisfaction.

The novel gets off to a fantastic start. Her c
...more
switterbug (Betsey)
From the opening pages, it is evident that Gilbert can write with lyricism, confidence, and substance. I was afraid that her mass popularity would lead to a dumbed down book with pandering social/political agendas or telegraphed notions. I am thrilled to conclude that this was not the case. Gilbert is a superb writer who allows her main characters to spring forth as organically as the natural world that they live in. This is a book of well-considered people of the times, who are emblematic of da ...more
Elyse
Feb 05, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing
Simply fantastic!!!! My God... Why had I waited so long to read this?

Geeee...I was hooked with the Prologue! Fascinating reading. There is so much to comment on...
What first? The story itself...(19th Century): The life of Alma Whittaker?? Her talents? Intelligence? Her educational growth? Personal growth? Her passion for Botany?

Or...
Do I share about the rich, amusing and stimulating other characters ...including Alma's friends and adopted sister?

Or do I share about the extraordinary- gorgeous-po
...more
Margaret
Dec 04, 2013 Margaret rated it it was ok
I'll write more later, but these are my comments having just finished this about an hour ago.

I really didn't enjoy reading this book and would have put it down after 50 pages had I not been committed for the long haul.

A feeling of detachment pervaded every scene, almost as if the author had no grasp of her character's inner lives, even as she reported it in stilted and wooden detail. Do not blame this on her attempt to capture the flavor of 19th century English. Just read a few lines of her at
...more
dawna
Oct 07, 2013 dawna rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth Gilbert

I can't say enough good things about this huge, ambitious and accessible novel. I read it based on an interview I saw with Liz Gilbert, where she talked about her inspiration for the story (a family heirloom book from the late 1700's detailing the voyages of Captain Cook), and because I think Gilbert is an amazing writer, whose talent and scope is far beyond the pigeon-holing she's garnered from Eat, Pray, Love (which I also loved).

It's far, far too good to give a detailed revi
...more
Diane
Mar 10, 2016 Diane rated it it was amazing
I lovedlovedloved this historical novel about a woman's life in nineteenth century Philadelphia. I knew I was going to like this book by its very first page, which begins thusly:


Alma Whittaker, born with the century, slid into our world on the fifth of January, 1800.

Swiftly — nearly immediately — opinions began to form around her.

Alma's mother, upon viewing the infant for the first time, felt quite satisfied with the outcome. Beatrix Whittaker had suffered poor luck thus far generating an heir
...more
Violet wells
This novel has no right to be such an immersive bewitching page turner. Its nearly 600 pages long, its narrative force relies on a single character, a plain almost loveless woman whose passion is, of all things, mosses and, though it’s very well written, there probably isn’t a single sentence of memorable virtuoso prose in the entire book. And yet…

Elizabeth Gilbert doesn’t possess the rarefied brilliance of Hilary Mantel as a prose stylist but The Signature of all Things shares lots of similarit
...more
Beth
Dec 04, 2013 Beth rated it it was ok
I love Elizabeth Gilbert, so it pains me to say that I could not wait for this book to be over. I listened to it, and it was read very well, but I couldn't skim parts that I may have if I was reading it, which made it that much more torturous.

There were certainly moments of brilliance, and it was obvious that Gilbert put a lot of time and research into the novel, but there was too much detail, about too many subjects, which made it incredibly drawn out and tedious.

While I was not expecting Eat,
...more
B the BookAddict
Mar 06, 2016 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Sally Howes
Shelves: must-buy

So many thoughts, so little time - so....

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of that turnip of a book – Eat, Pray, Love, has written an absolute peach of a big, sprawling novel in The Signature of All Things.

Luscious, ambitious, lyrical, satisfying; nothing in this novel will fail to keep you spellbound. I could wax lyrically all day about this book.

Thank-you to Sally Howes for recommending this to me. Most Highly Recommended. 5
...more
Sylvia
Oct 02, 2015 Sylvia rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melanie
Jan 18, 2014 Melanie rated it really liked it

"If ever a book were doomed to birth in a suffocating caul of expectations, this is it (a fact Gilbert has addressed gracefully in a popular Ted Talk). “Author of the No. 1 New York Times best seller ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ ” appears prominently on the front cover, and, compounding the expectations, the book’s publicity proclaims it a neo-19th-century work in style and substance. In fact, the prose is modern and accessible, leaning on plot rather than language to draw readers in. Gilbert has establish
...more
Margitte

Alma Whitaker was born in the first sentence of the book. Genetically she was predestined for her life, like we all are. But her life would be different, as in totally different than the norm, made possible by the two determined people who would structure her intellectual, social, emotional and historical journey through life, particularly the Golden Age of 19th Century Botanical Exploration. It was the period in history which ensured unimaginable wealth to the patrons of plants and medicines.
...more
Candace
Sep 21, 2013 Candace rated it it was amazing
This was my first time reading Elizabeth Gilbert—I’m one of the six people in the universe who didn’t read “Eat, Pray, Love”—and I’m glad I didn’t approach this novel with any preconceived ideas. I’m sure it’s nothing like her previous bestseller, but if that book can propel this book high on the lists that would be great. “The Signature of All Things” is a lovely novel, beautifully written with great scope and rich characters.

The novel is full of small delights of writing. Money, Gilbert writes
...more
Jess
Nov 24, 2013 Jess rated it it was amazing
This book isn't for everyone. Some may find it too long. Others may find parts of it hokey - or embarrassing. Some may find it reaches too high and, for that stretch, falls short of the mark in the pursuit. I wouldn't disagree with anyone who felt these ways. But for me, it's a beautiful, big, thoughtful book. A book that takes, in the space of one fictional life with nods to real historical unfolding of events and theories, the hope of understanding a meaning of us, greater than us. A book that ...more
Randy
Sep 09, 2013 Randy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If you loved “Eat, Pray, Love” be warned that this is a very different book: not only a novel, but a sweeping historical and scientific novel, 500+ pages of great writing. Think Barbara Kingsolver meets James Michener and Charles Darwin. Utterly divine, but totally different than the memoir.
If you did not love “Eat, Pray, Love” and if you love a big juicy interesting read, you will love this one, because Elizabeth Gilbert, when released from neurotic navel-gazing, is a smashing writer with brill
...more
Eve
Jan 11, 2016 Eve rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
"Lastly, she knew one other thing, and this was the most important realization of all: she knew that the world was plainly divided into those who fought an unrelenting battle to live, and those who surrendered and died. This was a simple fact."

 photo image_zpstk8tbfoe.jpeg

This was a delightful audio book to listen to! At a length of 21 hours and 43 minutes, it seemed like a daunting book to tackle prior to investing in my wireless noise canceling headphones. It's made audio books a delight once again. Now I can listen an
...more
Michael
Dec 31, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michael by: Margitte
A richly satisfying feast for me. It transported me completely to a fascinating time and place, Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and into the mind of a woman who lives in the world of botany, one Alma Whitaker.

The saga has a great start with the life of her father Henry, whose lower-class life in London gets transformed by an opportunity to work for the famous naturalist Joseph Banks, first as a caretaker at his Kew Garden project and later as a sort of spy on exploratory voyages such as C
...more
Linda
Nov 28, 2013 Linda rated it it was amazing
To be honest, I listened to this book after joining Audible. The richness of Gilbert's writing and Juliet Stevenson's voice made this one of the best book experiences I've had in a long time. Alma Whittaker is a strong, interesting, and vulnerable character whose journey in life is so layered that I found myself rushing to get back to the book and I was deeply saddened when I finished. Yet I was so satisfied when the book was over that I think back on the book fondly as if reminiscing about a lo ...more
Phrynne
Aug 20, 2015 Phrynne rated it liked it
I started out enjoying this book very much and I was glad because I had been avoiding reading it for a while due to the fact that I disliked Eat, Pray, Love so much.The Signature of All Things is a very different kind of book however and it is mostly interesting, well,written and populated with intriguing characters. Sadly though it is too long and the last section just meanders along without direction. Which is a great shame because I was left thinking it was just an okay book when in fact a la ...more
Rebecca Foster
Who knew Elizabeth Gilbert had it in her? I’ve read and loved all of her nonfiction (e.g. Big Magic), but my experience of her fiction was a different matter: Stern Men is simply atrocious. I’m so glad I took a chance on this 2013 novel anyway. Many friends had lauded it, and for good reason. It’s a warm, playful doorstopper of a book, telling the long and eventful story of Alma Whittaker, a fictional nineteenth-century botanist whose staid life in her father’s Philadelphia home unexpectedly ope ...more
Sally Howes
I approached THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS with only a vague idea that it was a novel about a female botanist trying to make good in the gentleman's club of nineteenth-century scientific exploration. Well, I wasn't wrong, but I could have been so much more right, if only I had realized that this was a novel about a woman named Alma Whittaker. That might sound like an overly simple statement, but you should not judge it as such until you've met Alma Whittaker, because Alma Whittaker is anything but ...more
Shahine Ardeshir
Nov 05, 2013 Shahine Ardeshir rated it did not like it
When I was about one third through this book, I realized two things: One, that I enjoy reading to learn something, even something small, that I didn't know before. And two, that I was unlikely to learn much from this particular read.

Reading should (in my opinion) teach you something, or at the very least, entertain you. Which is why I usually prefer non-fiction, and which is also why if I do read fiction, I expect it to be exceptional. This book was not educational nor entertaining and nothing a
...more
Erin
Dec 03, 2013 Erin rated it liked it
Disappointing after reading so many glowing reviews. The book started very strong and probably would have been a lot more interesting if we'd kept just following Henry. His daughter,Alma, is an ok character. I didn't dislike her. It was more that I felt detached and didn't really care. And, while I read plenty of romance novels, I was actually disappointed when Alma's sexuality became such a big deal in the book. Maybe it's how it was introduced, or even just the wording. I was really put off by ...more
Shannon
Nov 19, 2013 Shannon rated it it was amazing
This surprising saga from Elizabeth Gilbert is a blast of historical fiction that kept me engaged until the final page. The storytelling rivals Ken Follet for both creativity and richness. The book features a wide variety of detail on botany which offers plant lovers some subjects to poke into on your own for sake of pure fascination. I also appreciate that the novel is full of insights and Gilbert's unique brand of expressing complicated emotions and reactions. Rivaled only by Annie Lammot in m ...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 30, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
Henry Whittaker was a self made man, a man who exacted a great deal of thought from those around him, quick of mind and eager to seize any money making enterprise centering on botany and the medicinal uses of said plants. His only daughter is Alma, equipped with an exacting nature and brilliant mind herself, she finds a virtual playground of plant and animal life on the family estate in which to learn and thus becomes a scientist in her own measure.

This story is Alma's, although their are other
...more
Heba
أي طفولة تلك التي مرت بها "ألما" ؟...
نشأت بين والدين كلاهما وجد مع الآخر شراكة مستندة على تجارة وأرباح الغد هى وعود اليوم..
كانت الطفلة تقتفي آثار الأشياء وخاصة تلك التي تعجز عن فهمها إلى أن تصل الى اجابة مُقنعة
لابد وأن تكون قادرة دون اي مساعدة من أحد أن تربح نفسها واذا ما امتلكت يوما مشاعرغير ودية عليها ان تسقطها جهيضة على الأرض !!
كانت أشبه بوعاء ممتلىء بأربع لغات وعلم النباتات ودراسة الطحالب وتصنيفها
أى حياة تلك التي تمضيها في دراسة الطحالب ..لقد دعت العلم يسلب قلبها ..لم تمنحه الفرصة لكي يختب
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
How does this book compare to eat, pray, love? 29 223 Jun 04, 2016 10:29PM  
Did Alma lead a good life? 5 43 May 16, 2016 08:00AM  
What did Alma think about slavery? 4 22 Jan 16, 2016 04:56PM  
The Prudence Problem 15 289 Jan 16, 2016 09:19AM  
2016 Reading Challenge 3 33 Jan 02, 2016 07:06PM  
The love of reading (-all books) 2 14 Oct 27, 2015 06:22AM  
  • The Movement of Stars
  • Someone
  • The Good Lord Bird
  • Flora
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
  • Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
  • Mary Coin
  • Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste
  • Quiet Dell
  • My Notorious Life
  • Wash
  • The Son
  • The Lowland
  • Bitter Greens
  • The People in the Trees
  • A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
  • The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
  • Blue Horses
11679

Elizabeth Gilbert is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. 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 Critic’s Circle Award.

Her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, spent 57 weeks in the #1
...more
More about Elizabeth Gilbert...

Share This Book



“Take me someplace where we can be silent together.” 75 likes
“You see, I have never felt the need to invent a world beyond this world, for this world has always seemed large and beautiful enough for me. I have wondered why it is not large and beautiful enough for others-- why they must dream up new and marvelous spheres, or long to live elsewhere, beyond this dominion... but that is not my business. We are all different, I suppose. All I ever wanted was to know this world. I can say now, as I reach my end, that I know quite a bit more of it than I knew when I arrived. Moreover, my little bit of knowledge has been added to all the other accumulated knowledge of history-- added to the great library, as it were. That is no small feat, sir. Anyone who can say such a thing has lived a fortunate life.” 73 likes
More quotes…