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The Signature of All Things
— —
Elizabeth Gilbert
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert at Abbey's Bookshop,

The Signature of All Things

Elizabeth Gilbert



Fiction & Literature;
Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)


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ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- My rep told me he had a book I'd really enjoy, but when I found out it was by Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, I was very dubious to say the least. Still, I promised I'd have a look… and I was drawn in immediately! I admit to being prejudiced, and to being wrong!

Alma Whittacker is born in 1800, the only child to an Englishman and his Dutch wife, in Pennsylvania. Her father is basically illiterate, but by dint of cunning and hard work (and some illegality!), has made a fortune in plant collecting and pharmacy. Alma is encouraged to explore the estate and question everything from a very young age. She's homely, but effortlessly intelligent, and becomes a precocious naturalist. She takes care of her father's library and discovers certain things perhaps not intended for young, or female, eyes. When her parents adopt the beautiful daughter of a murdered prostitute, Alma's life becomes complicated with negative emotions, but botany and increasing participation in her father's business keep her busy.

Becoming intrigued and obsessed with mosses, Alma spends her adult years observing and thinking about the signature of all things - the underlying structures of life. A beautiful younger man with an unsurpassed talent for botanical illustration comes to her notice and they work well together, until the messy complications of love intrude…

I found this a clever and compelling story with many levels (all satisfying), well rounded and believable characters, and a brilliant recreation of the 19th century. Others I have persuaded to read it (despite their initial preconceptions!) have agreed with me - this is a great novel indeed! ~ Lindy


5th January 1800. At the beginning of a new century, Alma Whittaker is born into a perfect Philadelphia winter. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant in Kew Gardens. Alma's mother, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, is conversant in five living languages (and two dead ones) and her knowledge of botany is equal to any man's.

An independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, it is not long before Alma 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 comes to love 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 mechanisms behind all of life.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

By:   Elizabeth Gilbert
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
ISBN:   9781408850114
ISBN 10:   1408850117
Publication Date:   October 2013
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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