Quite simply one of the best novels I have read in years ... a bejewelled, dazzling novel -- Elizabeth Day Observer 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 Riveting -- Eithne Farry Marie Claire Sumptuous ... Gilbert's prose is by turns flinty, funny, and incandescent New Yorker 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 Viscerally written -- Eleanor Mills Sunday Times Gilbert writes superbly well -- Wendy Holden Daily Mail An intricate, beautifully written historical novel ... A passionate paean to the 19th-century women of science who strove for achievement against the odds -- Anita Sethi Metro Gilbert's observations, of both characters and locations, make this an unexpected joy and in Alma she has created a truly unforgettable heroine -- Anita Chaudhuri Irish Examiner Astute and funny ... comes with generous helpings of optimism and romance. Cynics need not apply Irish Sunday Mirror Magnificent ... I was just a few pages into the book when I felt myself relax, aware that I was in the safe hands of a master story-teller -- Anna Carey The Irish Times Gilbert reminds readers she can do, and undo, narratives through impeccably observed and original stories Independent Gilbert shows herself to be a writer at the height of her powers O Magazine My own 500-pager of choice? Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things ... just read it ... Hugely enjoyable -- Viv Groskop Observer Books of the Year
5 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 Sir Joseph Bankss Kew Gardens and as a deck hand on Captain Cooks HMS Resolution
. Almas mother, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, has a knowledge of botany equal to any mans.
It is not long before Alma, an independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, comes into her own within the world of plants and science. But as her careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction. The Signature of All Things
is a big novel, about a big century. It soars across the globe from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam. Peopled with extraordinary characters missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses and the quite mad above all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker, a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern.