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The Signature of All Things

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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  43,389 ratings  ·  6,460 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
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Hardcover, 512 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Riverhead Books (first published May 1st 2012)
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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)
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Natalie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Banafsheh Serov
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
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Audrey ❦❦❦
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
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Priyank
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
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Lee Woodruff
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
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
Margaret
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
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dawna
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
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Beth
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,
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Melanie

"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
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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.
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Candace
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
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Cheryl
THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is appropriately titled, as Elizabeth Gilbert writes of the impact of the evolutionary theory on all living things. Moss is chosen as a metaphor in the plant world, and Alma's life represents the human struggle.

Gilbert writes about the theory's imprint upon the main character's life, but more significantly, she highlights the importance of how Alma accomodates the challenges of her time in the nineteenth century, addresses her unfullfilled desires for a complete love
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Randy
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
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Jess
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
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
Linda
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
Michael
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
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Shannon
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
B the BookAddict
Jun 16, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Sally Howes

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
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Shahine Ardeshir
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
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Erin
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
Diane S.
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
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Julie
The Signature of All Things is a fine book. Its scope is epic, taking the reader from late 18th century England, on an around-the-world voyage with Captain Cook and through a sweaty sojourn in the jungles of Peru. In the first half of the 19th century it moves to a grand estate in Philadelphia, and finally to the blue waters of Tahiti and the cold canals of Amsterdam. Along the rollicking and merry way, themes of natural selection, slavery and abolition, education, feminism, marriage and sexual ...more
Sylvia
A review in three parts:

1. I was actually enjoying this and then at 49% a spinster has a spontaneous orgasm from holding hands with a dude in a closet.

2. (ten percent later) Oh wait, and now he's a closeted gay! This went from historically interesting to 18th Century days of our botanical queer lives popcorn.gif. Not sure if want but reading rapidly anyway!

3. (when done) Oh, sweet Jesus. This book was dedicated to the great women of science, which would be a great dedication if this wasn't also
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Jennifer D
the only word that keeps rolling around in my brain, concerning gilbert's new novel, is: LUSH - this book is so lush and enveloping. it was pretty delightful from start to finish. and if you know me, you know i don't really use the word delightful! heh. but it got a bit ham-handed at the end.

gilbert has a lot going on in this story. it's a tale of many things: the beauty and wonder of the world; a journey of self-discovery and an evolving spirit for alma, the main character; a love story; nature
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Trish
I loved this huge story. Sometime last month I came across a years-old video interview of Gilbert by the author ZZ Packer. Gilbert’s responses were so natural and open, it reminded me how much I admired her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love. I remember thinking of that book that I would never have revealed as much of myself as she had, but she is still doing it! She just blurts out what she thinks and instead of liking her less, we like her more. It helps that she has a commodious, first-class ...more
Elaine
At least one of these stars is for Juliet Stephenson's astonishing narration. I could listen to her read the phone book. The richness of her characterizations were part of what made this book come alive for me - I think the unevenness of pacing and the dry nature of some of the scientific background filling might have irked on the printed page - but in Stephenson's mellifluous and precise British tones, the backstory of evolutionary theory was enthralling.

But ah, Alma! Between Stephenson and Gil
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Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

I wrote a brief but scathing review of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love so when The Signature of All Things arrived unsolicited I wasn't enthusiastic. When it finally reached the top of my review stack, I was willing to attempt it but I was fully expecting I would put it aside after a few chapters. However, to my surprise, I found The Signature Of All Things fascinating reading and was reluctant to put it down.

Unfolding over a century from the late 1700's, The Signature of All Things is a fic
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Anna
"Tell me, though, Miss Whittaker, what is that you admire in mosses?"
"Their dignity," Alma replied without hesitation. "Also, their silence and intelligence. I like that - as a point of study - they are fresh. They are not like other bigger or more important plants, which have all been pondered and poked at by hordes of botanists already. I suppose I admire their modesty, as well. Mosses hold their beauty in elegant reserve. By comparison to mosses, everything else in the botanical world can se
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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
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More about Elizabeth Gilbert...
Eat, Pray, Love Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage The Last American Man Stern Men Pilgrims and Other Stories

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“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.” 56 likes
“Take me someplace where we can be silent together.” 53 likes
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