Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Title: The Signature of All Things
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publish Date: October 14, 2013
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "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."

My Two Cents:

"The Signature of All Things" is a sweeping historical-fiction novel that takes place in the 18th and 19th centuries, a time of great change in the scientific world. At its center is an absolutely fascinating character, Alma, who grows up in a world where her parents get her engaged in science at a very early age. She is never excluded from conversations because she is female and that creates a great sense of her being able to do whatever she wants. The characters and historical detail definitely made this book for me!

Alma is such an interesting character. Because this book takes place over such a long period of time, you really get to know Alma well and she just keeps getting more and more fascinating throughout the book. She is ahead of her time in a lot of ways and it was really awesome to read about how supportive her parents and family were of that fact. Alma becomes a noted botanist but because she is a woman, she has to do things like be published under pseudonyms and hide who she really is. Alma is whip smart and she knows it. She definitely regrets that as a woman, she doesn't have nearly the amount of opportunities that a man would have in pursuing and even speaking publically about her scientific work. She comes off as callous or haughty sometimes and I really enjoyed reading about her. This book has so much more to it though besides Alma's scientific pursuits. This book is also about family and unrequited love

This book is also good for armchair travelers. Parts of the book take place in Philadelphia, Tahiti, and the Netherlands mainly but there are other places too. Because Alma is such a fantastic character, you definitely enjoy traveling with her. Gilbert was definitely able to bring these places to life for me. Alma's time in the Netherlands and Tahiti stood out for me in particular!

I listened to this book on audiobook and while it took me awhile to get through it (the length is something like 24 hours), it was a great book to listen to. I must tell you that the narration was really fantastic. The narrator is British actress, Juliet Stevenson, who has been in a ton of different movies and tv shows. Her voice is so captivating!

Overall, historical fiction lovers will love this saga!


1 comment:

  1. Saw this book displayed in the front shelves for a few times in several bookstores. The cover looks very pretty also!


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