THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Viking; On-sale October 1, 2013; $28.95; 9780670024858
“Gilbert's sweeping saga of Henry Whittaker and his daughter Alma offers an allegory for the great, rampant heart of the 19th century…The dense, descriptive writing seems lifted from pages written two centuries past, yet it's laced with spare ironical touches and elegant phrasing…Characters leap into life, visible and vibrant… Multiple narrative threads weave seamlessly into a saga reminiscent of T. C. Boyle's Water Music…A brilliant exercise of intellect and imagination.”—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
Gilbert triumphantly returns to fiction with a big novel, about a big century, written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time. Alma Whittaker is born into perfect Philadelphia privilege; an independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, Alma quickly comes into her own within the world of plants and science. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a willful and charismatic botanical importer and pharmaceutical magnate whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant in Kew Gardens. Her mother, Beatrix, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, has a grasp of botany that is equal to any man's. Her saintly stepsister, Prudence, is one of unparalleled beauty and decorum.
As Alma's careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love, a mysterious painter of orchids named Ambrose Pike, draws her into the opposite direction – into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist of dogged perseverance, Ambrose a utopian artist who longs for purity and communion. 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. She is a witness to history, as well as a maker of history herself. She stands on the cusp of the modern, with one foot still in the Enlightenment Age.
Brilliantly researched and lovingly crafted, THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS carries the reader breathlessly across the globe. It is a work of extraordinary faith and of deep scientific reflection. Perhaps above all, it is the story of an irrepressible woman, determined to satisfy her most powerful urges toward both love and knowledge. A novel immersed in all the great questions of the nineteenth century, THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is also very much a novel for our times.
Please visit www.elizabethgilbert.com and follow her on Twitter @GilbertLiz, for more information.
About the Author
Elizabeth Gilbert is the acclaimed author of five books of fiction and nonfiction. Her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, was a #1 New York Times bestseller; it has been published in more than thirty languages and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, and in 2010 was made into a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts. Gilbert's novel Stern Men was a New York Times Notable Book, and her most recent work, Committed – a memoir of marriage – was a # 1 New York Times bestseller. In 2008, Timemagazine named Gilbert one of the most influential people in the world.