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The Signature of All Things

Gilbert, Elizabeth (Book - 2013 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Signature of All Things


Item Details

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. 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. -- From publisher. In this book the author 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. "--
Authors: Gilbert, Elizabeth, 1969-
Title: The signature of all things
Publisher: New York :, Viking,, [2013]
Characteristics: 501 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm
Content Type: text
Media Type: unmediated
Carrier Type: volume
Contents: The tree of fevers
The plum of White Acre
The disturbance of messages
The consequence of missions
The curator of mosses.
Summary: [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. 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. -- From publisher., In this book the author 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. "--]
Local Note: 1 6 7 8 9 15 16 17 18 24 27 29 33 35 37 53 54 57 60 64 65 67 68 70 73 74 76 79 80 81 97 109 110 112 118 122 127 133 138 143 148 149 150 151 152 156 159 160 167 172 173 175 182 188 193 198 203 210 211 216 222 224 226 228 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 242 243 244 245 250 258 261 262 263 264 268 272 274 276 278 280
ISBN: 9780670024858
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Report This Mar 29, 2014
  • lpodell rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Loved! Great character, string interesting woman, nice Darwin connection

Report This Feb 27, 2014
  • ehbooklover rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

This one’s tough. At times I couldn’t put the book down. At times I wondered why I was reading it. That really shouldn’t be a surprise as I had a very similar experience with Gilbert’s memoir “Eat, Pray, Love”. Perhaps a bit more editing would have helped. That said, in the end I did enjoy this exploration of one woman’s experiences during a time of great debate between science and spirituality.

Report This Jan 22, 2014
  • GummiGirl rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Entertaining, if not always believable. For anyone interested in novels about 19th century women in science, I would recommend Tracy Chevalier's "Remarkable Creatures" more than this book.

Report This Jan 10, 2014
  • mrsgail5756 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The book was okay – but not one of my favorites.

Report This Dec 26, 2013
  • rowanquincy rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A homely woman who studies moss is an unlikely pageturner, but I found it to be so, and was sorry when it ended. Loved the unusual characters and the unexpected twists in the plot. I appreciated the botanical details and pictures.

Report This Dec 15, 2013
  • jazpur rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A very well constructed novel which links the fictional characters with those of history so that they are entirely believable.An unusual and fascinating view of the world of Darwinian thought.It made compelling reading.

Report This Dec 14, 2013
  • deborahjohnston rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A thoroughly entertaining story. Linking fictional charachters with historical figures gives the story such credibility, that you feel Alma is real and you hope she finds love. Readers of this would also enjoy Bryce Courtenay's Jessica, The Potato Factory or Matthew Flinders Cat.

Report This Nov 29, 2013
  • jacquie234 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Author of "Eat Pray Love", Elizabeth Gilbert really knows how to tell a story. As the book cover says : "Exquisitely researched and told at a breathless pace... from London and Peru to Philadelphia, Tahiti, Amsterdam and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters." I really enjoyed it, 500 pages and I didn't want the book to end.

Report This Nov 15, 2013
  • ssimpso rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book is not fast-paced, but I ended up loving it! I so wanted Alma to find love, but I also loved that it became so clear that her life was full without that. Seemed much more Rand-ian than I expected, coming from Elizabeth Gilbert - who would have guessed?

Report This Oct 29, 2013
  • kazareads rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Totally absorbing, surprising, intricate, beautiful story. I am increasingly hooked on Elizabeth Gilbert's fresh, vivid and imaginative writing.

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