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The Signature of All Things

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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  76,788 Ratings  ·  9,947 Reviews
Elizabeth Gilbert’s first novel in twelve years. An extraordinary story of botany, exploration and desire, spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

5th January 1800. Alma Whittaker is born into a perfect Philadelphia winter. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant
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Hardcover, 512 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Bloomsbury UK
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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)
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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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Natalie
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elyse
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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Lee Woodruff
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
AudreyLovesParis
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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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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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
Diane
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.
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dawna
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Sylvia
Dec 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
B the BookAddict
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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★
Beth
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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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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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Randy
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Michael
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Jess
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Melanie
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"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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Candace
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Eve
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Phrynne
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
Linda
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Erin
Nov 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Shahine Ardeshir
Nov 03, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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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Diane S ☔
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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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
Tammy
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is really magnificent! It is both scientific and spiritual. It is both cerebral and sensual. It is both profound and simple. The Signature of All Things takes place in the 18th-19th centuries, and follows the long life of Alma Whitaker from Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam. And what a life she has! It encompasses history, science, genealogy, sexuality, sociology and much more. Wait until you see how she accomplishes the "one thing in life that she just HAD to do before she dies." If ...more
da AL
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this! I listened to it on cd - the narrator was terrific. So much research must've gone into this. Realy well done, in every way!
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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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“Take me someplace where we can be silent together.” 92 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.” 89 likes
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