Longlisted - Baileys Women's Prize 2014
Elizabeth Gilbert's first novel in twelve years is an extraordinary story of botany, exploration and desire, spanning across much of the 19th century. The novel follows the fortunes of the brilliant Alma Whittaker (daughter of a bold and charismatic botanical explorer) as she comes into her own within the world of plants and science. As Alma's careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she loves draws her in the opposite direction - into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical.
Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose is a Utopian artist. But what unites this couple is a shared passion for knowing - a desperate need to understand the workings of this world, and the mechanism behind of all life.
The Signature of All Things is a big novel, about a big century. Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, this story novel soars across the globe - from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam and beyond. It is written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time.
Alma Whittaker is a witness to history, as well as maker of history herself. She stands on the cusp of the modern, with one foot still in the Enlightened Age, and she is certain to be loved by many across the world.
©2013 Elizabeth Gilbert (P)2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
This ranks as one of the most enjoyable and moving listens I have thus far experienced.
The author has managed to create a truly believable moment of wonder and revelation around the unlikely subject of bryology (the study of mosses).
A mellifluous and pitch perfect reading of the book- I could have listened to her voice for days. Unfortunately the 'voice in my head' whilst reading just doesn't sound that good!
In one way yes, but I also enjoyed going away to savour moments before returning to the story.
A rare book indeed - beautifully drawn characters which drive the story on and involve the emotions of the reader - at the same time addressing a period of our history in which science and the opening up of the world to discovery was at a particular peak.
One of the best, I really enjoyed the exploration of peoples characters.
I think it has to be Alma, she was the main character after she arrived in the story. She had amazing tenacity and the mind of a scientist, she was self disciplined and pragmatic. she listened to others and she learned.
On the whole I enjoyed Juliet Stevenson's reading, she differentiated characters nicely, has a pleasant tone and good pronunciation.
It is too long for that, but I always looked forward to the next opportunity and it is a good book to mull over the ideas it produces between sessions.
I loved the historical background to this novel, I was fascinated by the discipline and societal expectations placed upon the characters and their subsequent achievements. Hawaiin society sounded fascinating and difficult to cope with and I loved Alma's summing up of her life and her statement that she did not wish to say things that upset others - this pertaining to the arguments around Darwinian theories and peoples religious beliefs. A thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking novel
I live in Norwich, Norfolk and I am an artist and photographer. I listen to books when I am creating.
Discovery, Romance, Surprises
Oh it has to be the main character Alma Whittaker, such an interesting life story.
Yes she read the story well, nothing grated and it flowed well. A couple of character voices didn't sound quite right but overall she did an excellent job.
I think the part that moved me the most was when Alma discovered the truth about her husband and then went on a remarkable journey that helped her discover who she really was.
This book will be in my Mum's xmas stocking this year.
The incredible detail of the writing and delicious voice of the narrator made listening to this book a sensual pleasure. I could really visualise the sea voyages to far-away lands and the up-close intricacies of the mosses, could imagine reverently turning the pages of orchid illustrations. It was fascinating too from a historical perspective - from the concept of 'polite' sciences (subjects acceptable for ladies to pursue) to the competitive and commercial drive for plant collection. It's a long story, following one central character's life with all its passions and frustrations, restrictions and liberties, but it's a rich story and one well worth investing in.
I found this book whilst looking for other audiobooks that Juliet Stevenson narrated as I find her to be so wonderful at telling a story and bringing the characters to life. She did not disappoint in this and I felt that Alma Whittaker particularly felt so real to me I did have to double check if she actually existed. Alas she doesn't, but I'd love to know if this actually was based on a real person. Elizabeth Gilbert has obviously researched thoroughly before embarking on this novel and that was evident from the extremely detailed botanical descriptions, to the details about the sea voyages to the countries Alma visits. Other reviewers have described Alma as self absorbed, I think is a little unfair, in my mind she was a strong, courageous and brave woman, who if you can imagine at the time must have rather broken the mould of what was to be expected from a lady. I liked her as a character and felt slightly bereft at leaving her behind at the end of the novel. I have since recommended this to a friend who initially turned his nose up at the idea of a book about a travelling female botanist, but even he surprised himself and also enjoyed the book.
This is a very unusual book which held my interest to the end. The information about the plant hunters of the 19th century was very interesting.
Who knows? I didn't read the print version.
Alma. She made a go of it.
Such a wide range of voices and accents - brilliant
I've never read anything like it and find it hard to review but you won't be disappointed in it. Unique.
I was captivated from the very first line. Fascinating story and characters. The narration made me feel I am in the world of the book, walking among its pages.
In the top 20
None. It is unique.
Utterly brilliant character creation, great story - telling talent.
A strange and somewhart meandering tale that nevertheless siezes the attention and keeps it. The performance makes it special.
I wish I had reviewed this before it came on as today's daily deal because I want to encourage others to listen to this. Juliet Stevenson is my favourite narrator so this book had a head start for me. However I found the book fascinating, compelling and compassionate. I enjoyed the very different characters, who all felt real for me. The main character- if you had described her actions - may have felt passive but because her internal life is so vivid, self aware and honest I admired the ways in which she made meaning from her life. I liked the moves between small worlds to vast worlds and the differences in perception and life this gave the characters. I enjoyed the historical, geographical and scientific backgrounds. The integrity of the main voice, and the refusal of the author to tie it all up with an easy ending made it very real for me. I wanted it to last forever and finished it feeling moved and satisfied. Writing this review makes me realise how richly complex this book is - I haven't done it justice really and already want to listen again!
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