The Signature of All Things Paperback – 3 Jul 2014
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Unlike anything else she has ever written ... Its prose has the elegant sheen of a 19th-century epic, but its concerns - the intersection of science and faith, the feminine struggle for fulfilment - are especially modern (Steve Almond International Herald Tribune)
The story of Alma Whittaker's journey of discovery has irresistible momentum (Helen Dunmore The Times)
Ms Gilbert has established herself as a straight-up storyteller who dares us into adventures of worldly discovery, and this novel stands as a winning next act ... A bracing homage to the many natures of genius and the inevitable progress of ideas, in a world that reveals its best truths to the uncommonly patient minds (Barbara Kingsolver International Herald Tribune)
Charming and compelling ... A big novel in all senses - extensively researched, compellingly readable and with a powerful charm that will surely propel it towards the bestseller lists (Jane Shilling Daily Telegraph)
Gilbert has written the novel of a lifetime ( O, The Oprah Magazine)
Sumptuous ... Gilbert's prose is by turns flinty, funny, and incandescent ( New Yorker )
Quite simply one of the best novels I have read in years ... a bejewelled, dazzling novel (Elizabeth Day Observer )
Readers prepared to enter Gilbert Time will be rewarded: she is an unflaggingly curious writer, prone to delightful touches ... Gilbert's period interests seem boundless - she explores everything from self-sacrifice, to homosexuality, Darwinism and Victorian pornography ... This is a novel to be chewed over, slowly (Lucy Atkins Sunday Times)
A botanical odyssey through the nineteenth century, global in ambition, revelling in the period's insatiable curiosity about the world ... a tall tale, told with verve and wit ( Guardian )
Filled with dazzling storytelling (Susie Boyt Financial Times )
The New York Times bestseller
Elizabeth Gilbert's first novel in twelve years. An extraordinary story of botany, exploration and desire, spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuriesSee all Product description
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For such a large book, this is quite an intense read which covers a long period in the development of science.
I had delayed reading it due to the large number of pages and small font but I'm really glad I got round to it.
The story is completely compelling and the author manages to keep the plot moving at a great pace. There was one point in the middle where I felt the narrative became too fantastical but I ploughed through and it was worth it. I decided subsequently that the author was actually showing some of the ideas of the time which seem bizarre to us.
All the way through reading this novel I was learning things. At one point there was an exploration of growing vanilla vines which led to an unexpected dinner party conversation that weekend - very unlikely!!
Many time the story changes direction and reinvents itself but always keeps the main character to the fore of the action.
I've never heard of this author but I'm impressed with the depth of her research and will read more of her novels.
I concluded that this novel is perfectly complete. Every element has been thought through and parallels are drawn for emphasis of important points - characters are plausible and well rounded.
It took me a long time to read but it was time well spent.
I am also glad that I knew so little about the book when I began reading it for this book really surprised me. It is so much more than just a period novel about a Botanist. This book causes the imagination to bloom in panoramic proportions so that what you envision is breathtakingly beautiful. Besides that, it is exceptionally well-researched. Those with an adventurous spirit will find themselves soaring. Contemplatives will find their minds being further challenged while lovers of science will find satisfaction.
Partly into the book, I thought I knew what the book was about; then surprise after surprise enters into the story. It isn't as if the story changes direction. It was more like a flower bud opening layer upon layer of petals so that each time something new was revealed it added to making the story more captivating. I found myself often wondering, "NOW where is this story going?" My conclusion is that The Signature Of All Things is Elizabeth Gilbert's current masterpiece. How she will top this, I don't know but I will never again hesitate to read more by her!
Definitely worth a go seeing as others are so impressed and it is a bit different from the usual historical fiction but it was just missing something I can't quite put my finger on for me.
It is a good read and through its story, it gives a well thought out exposition of the difficulties faced by a poor outsider boy and later his daughter in getting recognition for their scientific work, for poverty and gender were even greater obstacles than today to breaking into the rarefied circles of elite science.
Like many 19th century novels it is very long and the characters larger than life - with some degree of caricature - which detracts from the tale the author wants to tell. Nevertheless I would recommend this book, with 3 stars