Book of the Week: The Signature of All Things

Book of the Week for September 27 – October 3

The Signature of All Things


Why it’s interesting:

This is going to be blasphemous, but I’m going to say it anyway. I am not, in general, a fan of “Classics.” Quite honestly, I find them a bit long and boring. I’ve never read Great Expectations (I gave up on the audiobook when it felt like nothing was happening for days on end), I haven’t read anything from Jane Austin that I found particularly amazing (Pride and Prejudice was, for me, just okay) and I was slightly relieved when Anna Karenina was hit by the train (until I realized it was suicide, because that felt to me like the author gave up on finding resolution.) But I love me some Liz Gilbert, and the prose in this book was just so gorgeous when she read from it at the reading I was at last fall, so I thought I’d give it a try. The audio version.

I LOVED it. It is long. And sometimes tedious, but in the best “this is life” kind of way. I was so sad when it was over.

It makes me want to try those old classics again…maybe I just needed to grow up?

The blurb:
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.

What are you reading right now?

One thought on “Book of the Week: The Signature of All Things

  1. amanda | wildly simple

    I’m intrigued! I feel the same blasphemous way about many classics… yet I love beautiful writing.
    This sounds very good!!
    My favorite (fun, light) read as of late was the Rosie Project. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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