The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things

A Novel

Streaming Audiobook - 2013
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" 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, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker-a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry's brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father's money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction-into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist-but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life. Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe-from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who-born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution-bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert's
"Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker--a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry's brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father's money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction--into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist--but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life. he story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who--born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution--bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas"-- Provided by publisher.
wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers. "-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2013.
Characteristics: 1 sound file : digital
digital,stereo,Digital recording
audio file
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor

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WestSlope_TheaH Aug 21, 2018

An engrossing historical fiction set in the 17th and 18th centuries about a family of botanical explorers. Read if you like strong female characters and learning about the history of science. Bonus---a great narrator!

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Barbaravee
Sep 14, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed Juliet Stevenson's extraordinary reading of Elizabeth Gilbert's luminous writing, and after 21 1/2 hours of listening, was desolate when It came to its end. Impossible to even touch upon its multiple story lines and in -depth characterizations. My only advice is to read this amazing novel, learn so much from it and be happy. 5 STARS.

s
spiderfelt_0
Jan 29, 2017

Oh how I adored this book. I was initially curious about the book and later enchanted by the story. In Big Magic, Gilbert described the 4 years she spent researching and writing a book considered flawed and too long by many, but which she loved nonetheless. So alive was the central character, I looked up her name to see if there was a historical basis. The cadence of Alma Whittaker's speech entered my mind and wouldn't let go.

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wtbarrett
Aug 12, 2016

Disappointing. Long and rambling story that lacked substance and a point. I'm sorry I didn''t stop listening after the 2nd or 3rd CD.

d
Daj_O
Oct 29, 2015

This was an enjoyable book to listen to, although there were several chapters where the protagonist goes to Tahiti which don't add anything to the narrative and could have been edited out.

f
fletcherk
Aug 28, 2015

I have really enjoyed listening to this title. It has an interesting story and it is unlike most things that I have read by Elizabeth Gilbert before. It has a very good narrator which might actually make the book more enjoyable.

t
TheresaAJ
Mar 24, 2015

I'm not sure I would have chosen this book on my own. It's the March 2015 selection for the Willa Cather Book Club. This historical novel explores the life of Alma Whittaker, an heiress born in 1800 to an English father and a Dutch mother. Alma is destined to take the road less chosen and has the means to explore her interest in botanicals in America, Tahiti, and Holland. This novel is written in the same style as Charles Dickens and Wallace Stegner. Lots of detailed description about the new ideas and theories being explored in the 19th century, the world-wide mania for botanicals, and the cost of unpopular ideas such as abolition, evolution, etc.

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becker
Oct 02, 2014

As someone who was not a great fan of Eat, Pray, Love, I was pleasantly surprised with this book. It is a very ambitious, solid story filled with interesting historical scientific advances in medicine, botany etc. For the most part I really enjoyed this. It does have sections that are slow and bogged down with detail but it always picks up again and the stellar performance of the narrator added such a nice storytelling aspect to it, that I rather enjoyed just relaxing and taking it all in. This book is the type that is greatly enhanced by the audio production. I'm sure I would have struggled through it in print.

m
mkitty6258
Sep 05, 2014

This is marvelous as literature, history and pure literary fiction.
The CD is truly perfect - the reader Juliet Stephenson was a magnificent choice.

m
mvanzuylen13
Jun 04, 2014

I finished listening to this audio CD a few weeks ago, and had to digest what I thought of the book. Looking back, I can't say I really enjoyed it. I remember the first half of the story being quite engrossed, but the second half really drags on. By the end I could hardly bear to listen any more - but did because I had invested so much time already. I think the first half has a story, but the second half starts to sound very self satisfied. I do think it is very hard to write about a person whose physical and social passions are suppressed, and who then focuses on the life of the mind is very difficult to do in a way that is interesting.

The best part to me was the character of Ambrose, and the development of his relationship with Alma. This part of the story is well written, engaging and thought provoking. It is the reason I gave the book three stars. Anyone listening or reading this book should remember that the name "Alma" means "Soul". Knowing that will make Ambrose's wedding gift to Alma make sense.

I thought Juliet Stephenson's reading was exceptional.

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