The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things

Large Print - 2013
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A New York Times Bestselling Author This extraordinary story of botany, exploration and desire, spanning much of the 19th century, follows the fortunes of the brilliant Alma Whittaker (daughter of a bold and charismatic botanical explorer) as she comes into her own within the world of plants and science. As Alma's studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she loves draws her in the opposite direction -- into the realm of the spiritual.
Publisher: Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, 2013.
Edition: Large print edition.
ISBN: 9781410461414
9781594137853
1594137854
Characteristics: 883 pages (large print) ;,23 cm

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SPL_Brittany Feb 13, 2019

A sweeping historical fiction novel told against the backdrop of the Age of Enlightenment, that follows the life of Alma Whittaker, the daughter of the richest man in Philadelphia (Henry Whittaker) in the 1800s, who becomes a distinguished botanist and leading authority on mosses. Author of "Eat, Pray, Love", Elizabeth Gilbert writes a leisurely novel, full rich historical details along with the discussions within the scientific community during this period.

Though far from a fast read, I enjoyed taking my time and getting to know Alma Whittaker and her unique upbringing. I enjoyed travelling with her characters across the globe and delving into the scientific community during the Age of Enlightenment.

Readers who enjoyed Annie Proulx's "Barkskins" are sure to delight in this novel.

IndyPL_AnikaW Dec 04, 2018

Fantastically lyrical fiction about a 19th century female botanist/illustrator who focused on researching mosses, which she described as a "stupefying kingdom" as she gazed through a magnifying glass.

Alma Whittaker is an especially compelling and sympathetic character...and the details included by Gilbert on mosses and other aspects of botany as well as the theory of evolution make for a rich and engaging read.

s
snowdrop2011
Nov 03, 2018

I like botany so reading about mosses suits me well, but the book seems forced. I don't feel the writer's love for botany - did she plough through her botanical research, hoping to provide an unusual backdrop for her plot, or she truly enjoys plants? Anyway the poor characters are not well developed either. They don't come alive as they could have.

s
Sailnsandi
Sep 30, 2018

Interesting characters, great Botany information, and a great period piece.

RogerDeBlanck Jun 30, 2018

The Signature of All Things is impressive in both its breadth and detail. Seen primarily through the perspective of the inimitable Alma Whittaker, a botanist with an inexhaustible craving for knowledge, the narrative explores a treasure of ideas in the field of natural science. The story of Alma’s father Henry and the peerless Whittaker family is meticulously developed and beautifully told. For such a multi-generational epic, the story is never slow or boring. The lovely prose seemingly gallops along. Passion exudes on every page. But with all the intelligence and rapture the book delivers, some of its adventures felt as if they could have elevated to a higher level. The ending, though satisfying and interesting, came across as decidedly more expository, rather than revelatory. Nonetheless, this is a rich and enchanting novel that I recommend. It is a substantial literary work and a pleasure to read.

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gcarberry
Apr 22, 2018

Loved this book ! Well written with wonderful characters, a magnificent journey through a period of time . A fabulous exploration of science verse spirit and our humanness.

b
blueroo276
Sep 30, 2017

Well-written enough that I did finish it, but I did not enjoy this book. The characters were all "ugly," and I just couldn't make myself care about them.

s
Soundreader
Feb 18, 2017

I was drawn into this historical fiction tale from the first chapter. There is a lot of scientific detail but I found the main character delightful. She is a woman stuck in the wrong century! I enjoyed the questions her character raised in her quest to understand moss, science, love, and the 19th century world around her.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Jan 09, 2017

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, we are introduced to Alma Whittaker, an engaging heroine whose story stretches all the way through the nineteenth century and takes us from Europe to America and on again to Tahiti. Alma’s story is an engaging one even as it is one of self discovery that explores such universal themes as romance, sexuality, death and spirituality/religion. Perhaps the most memorable series of events in the book is the discovery by the main character of books that explore sensuality and which aid her in her attempts to explore her sexuality in the privacy of a broom closet. Alma is a scientist, a botanist to be exact and it is her attempts to understand the world around her through the study of the mysteries hidden in plant life, that help her to begin to understand her identity. It is refreshing that Gilbert refuses adhere to the commonality of the binary theme of good versus evil. There is no clear antagonist here and all that threatens the main character’s happiness is herself and her actions. As is the trend of most historical fiction, some real life historical events play a great deal in creating the background to which the story is set. For Alma it is her discovery of the theory of evolution and the publication of Darwin’s theories which closely resemble hers. The Signature of All Things is a work of prose evocative of beauty and the power of womanhood.
- @TheEccentric of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 05, 2016

The Signature of All Things is intelligent and certainly thought-provoking, but it is far from riveting. There is a considerable amount of botany in these pages, and readers who find digressions by an author into science WILL find themselves bored repeatedly throughout this novel.

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