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Extended Audio Sample The Signature of All Things: A Novel, by Elizabeth Gilbert Click for printable size audiobook cover
5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 5.00 (1 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Elizabeth Gilbert Narrator: Juliet Stevenson Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Gilbert’s…first work of fiction in thirteen years…has the elegant sheen of a nineteenth-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…A rousing homage to the literary heroes she grew up reading.”

    New York Times

  • “Real events provide ample substrate for a novel that entwines the historic and the imagined so subtly as to read like good nonfiction for most of its first half. It crosses over to page turner after the introduction of the author’s most beguiling invention, the deliciously named Ambrose Pike…The book’s locales are captured in glittering portraits…The prose is modern and accessible, leaning on plot rather than language to draw readers in. 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.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “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.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “A fabulous read…Gilbert has returned to fiction with a boisterous historical novel about a nineteenth-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.”


  • “Ms. Gilbert has turned out the most ambitious and purely imaginative work in her twenty-year career: a deeply researched and vividly rendered historical novel about a nineteenth-century female botanist.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • The Signature of All Things is that rare literary achievement: a big panoramic novel about life and love that captures the idiom and tenor of its age.”

    Washington Post

  • “Raucously ingenious…Not just a historical novel that spans two centuries and many geographies…I found unshackled joy on every page…A novel of brave and lovely ideas.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “[A] sweeping tale of one family’s journey from rags to riches…With such a massive narrative task at hand, narrator Stevenson never ceases to impress…Her English accent and sensitive but firm reading perfectly matches the author’s prose.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred audio review)

  • “After thirteen years as a memoirist, Elizabeth Gilbert has returned to fiction, and clearly she’s reveling in all its pleasures and possibilities…there is much pleasure in this unhurried, sympathetic, intelligent novel by an author confident in her material and her form.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Beautifully read…Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal (starred audio review)

  • “Juliet Stevenson narrates impeccably, providing superb, authentic accents…Powerful storytelling combined with a compelling voice create a spellbinding listening experience.”

    Booklist (starred audio review)

  • “Gilbert, in supreme command of her material, effortlessly invokes the questing spirit of the nineteenth century, when amateur explorers, naturalists, and enthusiasts were making major contributions to progress. Beautifully written and imbued with a reverence for science and for learning, this is a must-read.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Gilbert’s descriptions of Henry’s childhood, expeditions and life at the luxurious White Acre estate are superb. The dense, descriptive writing seems lifted from pages written two centuries past, yet it’s laced with spare ironical touches and elegant phrasing…Characters leap into life, visible and vibrant…Multiple narrative threads weave seamlessly into a saga reminiscent of T. C. Boyle’s Water Music…A brilliant exercise of intellect and imagination.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “An incandescent and riveting character study, The Signature of All Things is a century-spanning tale of discovery and unconventional love…Impeccable botanical research informs the story, yet is written in an easily digestible manner for the uninitiated…The novel’s exploration of women’s roles in nineteenth-century academia makes it something of a parable for modern gender imbalances.”

    RT Book Reviews (4½ stars)

  • Selected for the October 2013 Indie Next List
  • A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for October 2013
  • A USA Today Bestseller
  • A Washington Post Bestseller
  • New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books, 2013
  • An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2013
  • A 2013 Washington Post Notable Book for Fiction
  • A #1 Los Angeles Times Bestseller
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller
  • An NPR Bestseller
  • A 2013 Time Magazine Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2013 BookPage Best Book
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