The Signature of All Things (Paperback)

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Indie Next List

October 2013
This novel spans two centuries and offers the reader details of travel, adventure, love, family dysfunction, and science. Alma Whitaker is born in 1800 to a self-made man who becomes the richest man in Philadelphia. Alma is brilliant but homely, and during her long, loveless life she pursues the study of botany, ultimately proposing one of the first theories of evolution. Gilbert expertly tracks Alma's travels around the world, her struggles with her family and the man with whom she falls in love, and her desperate need to understand the mechanisms behind all life. -- Kate Mai, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

Description


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

About the Author


Elizabeth Gilbert is an award-winning writer of both fiction and nonfiction. 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 Critics Circle Award. She is best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which has been published in more than thirty languages; a film based on the memoir, starring Julia Roberts, opened in August 2010. Her most recent book, the memoir Committed: A Love Story, appeared in 2010. In 2008, Time magazine named Gilbert one of the most influential people in the world. Her website is www.elizabethgilbert.com.

Praise for The Signature of All Things…



Praise for The Signature of All Things

“Gilbert has established herself as a straight-up storyteller who dares us into adventures of worldly discovery, and this novel stands as a winning next act.  The Signature of All Things is a bracing homage to the many natures of genius and the inevitable progress of ideas, in a world that reveals its best truths to the uncommonly patient minds.”– Barbara Kingsolver, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Unlike anything Gilbert has ever written…Its prose has the elegant sheen of a 19th-century epic, but its concerns — the intersection of science and faith, the feminine struggle for fulfillment, the dubious rise of the pharmaceutical industry — are essentially modern… Gilbert has returned to her roots in fiction and written the sort of rip-roaring tale that would have been considered entertainment for the masses 150 years ago.” – Steve Almond, The New York Times Magazine
 
“The most ambitious and purely imaginative work in Gilbert’s 20-year career:  a deeply researched and vividly rendered historical novel about a 19th century female botanist.”– Alexandra Alter, The Wall Street Journal
 
“A  radiant novel…that rare literary achievement, a big, panoramic novel about life and love that captures the idiom and tenor of its age…Like Victor Hugo or Emile Zola, Gilbert captures something important about the wider world in The Signature of All Things:  a pivotal moment in history when progress defined us in concrete ways.” – Marie Arana, The Washington Post
 
“A delightful” book…one of the best of the year…Gilbert marries the technical, cultural and spiritual with a warm, frankly funny wit that adds richness to all three, her central character’s evolution going lockstep with her actual discovery of evolution.  This kind of storytelling is rare – one in which an author can depict the particulars of a moss colony as skillfully as she maps the landscape of the human heart.”– Lizzie Skurnick, “All Things Considered,” NPR
 
“Gilbert’s sumptuous third novel, her first in thirteen years, draws openly on nineteenth-century forebears:  Dickens, Eliot, and Henry James…Gilbert’s prose is by turns flinty, funny, and incandescent.”– The New Yorker
                                                         
“Engrossing…The Signature of All Things is one of those rewardingly fact-packed books that make readers feel bold and smart by osmosis.  Alma commits her life to ceaseless study, but reading this vibrant, hot-blooded book about her takes no work at all.”– Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
“Gilbert has mulled, from the confines of her desk, the correlations of nature, the principle that connects a grain of sand to a galaxy, to create a character who does the same – who makes the study of existence her life’s purpose.  And in doing so, she has written the novel of a lifetime.”– Katie Arnold-Ratliff, O, The Oprah Magazine
                                                                 
“A fabulous read…Gilbert has returned to fiction with a boisterous historical novel about a 19th-century botanist named Alma Whittaker…Alma’s fabulous brain is a hot pot of scientific knowledge, lonely feminist turmoil and erotic longing.  All of which makes her an irresistible character to accompany through history and around the world.”– Helen Rogan, People
 
“[An] action-packed tale…Gilbert’s latest work has modern resonance…her engaging, lively style is once more on display – along with an impressive versatility.  Few among the legions of contemporary memoir writers could turn out a novel as imaginative as this one.” – Clare McHugh, The Wall Street Journal
 
“Raucously ingenious…Signature is not just a historical novel that spans two centuries and many geographies.  It’s a 500-page novel of ideas…I found unshackled joy on every page.”– Beth Kephart, The Chicago Tribune
                                                                     
“A beautiful rumination on a life from start to near end, specifically the life of stubborn, talented, nineteenth-century-Philadelphia-dwelling Alma Whittaker…the real treat of the text is Gilbert’s lyrical writing.  She manages to spin the study of mosses into something fascinating.”– Cotton Codinha, Elle Magazine
                                                                     
“With a charming, flawed heroine straight out of Jane Austen, a Dickensian rags-to-riches story and thwarted romances that hark back to the Brontes, Elizabeth Gilbert has taken cues from the greatest nineteenth-century writers for her big nineteenth-century novel…it is gorgeously detailed, robustly filled with elements of bygone times and esoteric study.”– Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times

“This splendid novel by Elizabeth Gilbert spans much of a century (the 1800s) and circumnavigates the globe, in a page-turner that is equal parts family saga, love story, and meditation on the origin of species – particularly our own.”– Parade Magazine
 
“Gilbert’s writing is so smart and richly drawn that it does what all the best books do:  it sweeps you up.” – Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
                                                                         
“A sweeping tale of fortune, adventure, and the quinine trade…Alma’s extraordinary life unspools like a Jane Austen novel…here Gilbert claims her rightful spot as one of the 21st century’s best American writers.”̵

Product Details ISBN-10: 0143125842
ISBN-13: 9780143125846
Published: Penguin Books, 06/24/2014
Pages: 512
Language: English
Recommended Reading Level Minimum Age: 18
Maximum Age: UP
Minimum Grade Level: College Freshman
Maximum Grade Level: Up


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