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The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

To many Elizabeth Gilbert is simply the author of Eat, Prey, Love. Those who think of her like that will be surprised to find that she is a brilliant novelist. This is an ambitious, epic historical novel set at the beginning of the 19th century that takes us from London’s poverty to America’s new world and then on an incredible global journey. Alma, our heroine, is an engaging and fascinating woman in an era where achieving anything as a woman wasn’t easy and her warmth and humanity sing from the page. An absolute joy to read.

If you like Elizabeth Gilbert you might also like to read books by Barbara Kingsolver, Annie Proulx and Tracy Chevalier.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

5 January 1800. At the beginning of a new century, Alma Whittaker is born into a perfect Philadelphia winter. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant in Sir Joseph Banks's Kew Gardens and as a deck hand on Captain Cook's HMS Resolution. Alma's mother, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, has a knowledge of botany equal to any man's. It is not long before Alma, an independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, comes into her own within the world of plants and science. But as her careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction - into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical. She is a clear-minded scientist; he is a Utopian artist. But what unites this couple is a shared passion for knowing - a desperate desire to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all of life. The Signature of All Things is a big novel, about a big century. It soars across the globe from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam. Peopled with extraordinary characters - missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses and the quite mad -above all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker, a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern.


A writer of incandescent talent Annie Proulx A mix of intelligence, wit and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible Jennifer Egan [Gilbert] achieves the enviable feat of telling her characters
stories in their own words, on their own terms, without pomp or superciliousness New York Times Book Review A mix of Annie Proulx and John Irving The Times

About the Author

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of a short story collection, Pilgrims (a finalist for the PEN/Hemmingway Award), a novel, Stern Men and a book of non fiction, The Last American Man (nominated for the National Book Award and a New York Times Notable Book for 2002). She is a writer-at-large for American GQ where she has received two National Magazine Award nominations for feature writing.

Elizabeth Gilbert currently lives in Philadelphia.

Photograph © Marion Ettlinger

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Elizabeth Gilbert

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