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The Signature of All Things
The Signature of All Things
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this sweeping novel follows the fortunes of the Whittakers -- a family of botanical explorers, led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker, a poor-born Englishman who makes his fortune in the South American quinine trade and swiftly becomes the richest man in the New World. His daughter, Alma...  more »
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ISBN-13: 9780670024858
ISBN-10: 0670024856
Publication Date: 10/1/2013
Pages: 512
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.

3.9 stars, based on 25 ratings
Publisher: Viking Adult
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 26
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Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Signature of All Things on + 996 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Review first posted on my blog:

The Signature of All Things starts with Henry Whittaker, a poor but enterprising young man who makes his living as a thief. He gets caught, but is allowed leeway because of the respect people have for his father. He is put to work, and through his work and some shady dealings becomes a very wealthy man. The bulk of the book is about his daughter Alma.

Alma is an only child living a rather secluded life. She develops an interest in botany, and her specialty becomes, of all things, mosses. Along the way, discoveries come into and change her life. The book has much description of her discovery of and secret use of a text on sexual pleasure and of her work with plants. Along the way, people come in and out of her life. Prudence is adopted in to the family and becomes a sister until a rift drives them apart. Ambrose is the artist who steals her heart but is unable to be a husband to her. Along the way, places come in and out of her life. White Acres with its large indoor botanical gardens is the Whittaker estate in England. Alma also travels the world, some for botanical research and some searching for the people in her life.

I am not even sure where to start with this book. Given the previous writing of Elizabeth Gilbert, I expected a lot more. This book is slow moving and difficult to read - boring with a set of unlikable characters. The most interesting component of the book is probably some of the descriptions of the natural world and plant life. However, if that's what I want to read, I would pick a nonfiction book about the topic. If this had not been a review copy, I would have abandoned the book. However, I did read it and am left wondering .... What was the point?

*** Reviewed for GoodReads First Reads program ***
reviewed The Signature of All Things on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This was an interesting read. The story line is very plausible and it kept me moving forward, wanting to know what happened next. I learned quite a bit about nature, especially about mosses, and other plants and about cultural mores in the 19th century. I was a bit surprised at some of the sexual themes, so I would not share this book with young teenagers. Which, to me, is a shame because there is so much more to recommend it.
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reviewed The Signature of All Things on + 3 more book reviews
This book tell the intimate and social changes one women goes through in her life time. This story captured my attention from beginning to end. It is filled with intricate details. I enjoy how Mrs. Gilbert has a way of writing that can transport you to this time era.(1800-).

I loved!