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Summary

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

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A superb listen, utterly absorbing.

Where does The Signature of All Things rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This ranks as one of the most enjoyable and moving listens I have thus far experienced.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Signature of All Things?

The author has managed to create a truly believable moment of wonder and revelation around the unlikely subject of bryology (the study of mosses).

What does Juliet Stevenson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

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!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

In one way yes, but I also enjoyed going away to savour moments before returning to the story.

Any additional comments?

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • S
  • 09-12-13

A profoundly interesting story

Where does The Signature of All Things rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best, I really enjoyed the exploration of peoples characters.

Who was your favorite character and why?

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.

Have you listened to any of Juliet Stevenson’s other performances? How does this one compare?

On the whole I enjoyed Juliet Stevenson's reading, she differentiated characters nicely, has a pleasant tone and good pronunciation.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

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.

Any additional comments?

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

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Oh such a complete wonderful story.

If you could sum up The Signature of All Things in three words, what would they be?

Discovery, Romance, Surprises

Who was your favorite character and why?

Oh it has to be the main character Alma Whittaker, such an interesting life story.

What about Juliet Stevenson’s performance did you like?

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.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

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.

Any additional comments?

This book will be in my Mum's xmas stocking this year.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The best audio book ever

I have been a member of audible for some years, but this is my best listen so far. Elizabeth Gilbert has crafted an engrossing tale, full of real scientific information and human dilemma, but Juliet Stevenson's reading brings it alive as few performers could. She has a beautiful natural voice, but manages American, Dutch and Tahitian accents, male and female voices, so convincingly that one forgets entirely that she is the one person reading. She is simply fabulous. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fantastic book

Detailed, interesting, involving and beautiful. Loved Juliet Stevenson's reading. Extraordinarily well researched. Fully formed and believable characters. Thankyou!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Louisa
  • Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
  • 17-01-16

Rather too long

This is an interesting rather than a powerful book. It deals with early 19th century attitudes to creation and there is rather a lot about moss and botany. The reading by the ever brilliant Juliet Stevenson lifts the story from the almost dull, but overall the book lacks focus. It does, however, give a very good impression of how society viewed the natural world in the early 19th century and for that reason it's worth listening to if you are interested in the subject matter and the period and have the time.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • caya
  • Newton Abbot, United Kingdom
  • 15-08-14

Beautifully written and read

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Helen
  • Worth, United Kingdom
  • 12-08-14

Astonishing

Would you consider the audio edition of The Signature of All Things to be better than the print version?

Who knows? I didn't read the print version.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Alma. She made a go of it.

What about Juliet Stevenson’s performance did you like?

Such a wide range of voices and accents - brilliant

Any additional comments?

I've never read anything like it and find it hard to review but you won't be disappointed in it. Unique.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the greatest. A new classic

If you could sum up The Signature of All Things in three words, what would they be?

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • jo
  • Manchester, UK
  • 11-01-14

Gorgeous, rich, verdant.

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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful