The Signature of All Things

Front Cover
Penguin, 2013 - Fiction - 501 pages
1855 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. Look out for Elizabeth Gilbert's newest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. 

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 wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
630
4 stars
643
3 stars
374
2 stars
156
1 star
52

Review: The Signature of All Things

User Review  - Goodreads

i read Eat, Pray, Love - and ok, whatever. I would have never guessed that this was the same writer. I so enjoyed this book. I loved where it took me in time and place. It had so much detail that made ... Read full review

Review: The Signature of All Things

User Review  - Goodreads

I totally loved this book, though it's not without its faults. It's written in a sort of lofty, old-fashioned third person narrator voice that took a little getting used to for me, but also reminded ... Read full review

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2013)

Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic, and several other internationally bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction. She began her career writing for Harper's Bazaar, Spin, The New York Times Magazine and GQ, and was a three-time finalist for the National Magazine Award. Her story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award;The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The follow-up memoir Committed became an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. Her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, was named a Best Book of 2013 by The New York Times, O Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The New Yorker. Gilbert's short fiction has appeared in Esquire, Story, One Story, and the Paris Review.

Bibliographic information