Longlisted – Baileys Women’s Prize 2014
Elizabeth Gilbert's first novel in twelve years is an extraordinary story of botany, exploration and desire, spanning across much of the 19th century. The novel follows the fortunes of the brilliant Alma Whittaker (daughter of a bold and charismatic botanical explorer) as she 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 loves 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 mechanism behind of all life.
The Signature of All Things is a big novel, about a big century. Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, this story novel soars across the globe - from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam and beyond. It is written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time.
Alma Whittaker is a witness to history, as well as maker of history herself. She stands on the cusp of the modern, with one foot still in the Enlightened Age, and she is certain to be loved by many across the world.
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A superb listen, utterly absorbing.
This ranks as one of the most enjoyable and moving listens I have thus far experienced.
The author has managed to create a truly believable moment of wonder and revelation around the unlikely subject of bryology (the study of mosses).
A mellifluous and pitch perfect reading of the book- I could have listened to her voice for days. Unfortunately the 'voice in my head' whilst reading just doesn't sound that good!
In one way yes, but I also enjoyed going away to savour moments before returning to the story.
A rare book indeed - beautifully drawn characters which drive the story on and involve the emotions of the reader - at the same time addressing a period of our history in which science and the opening up of the world to discovery was at a particular peak.
A profoundly interesting story
One of the best, I really enjoyed the exploration of peoples characters.
I think it has to be Alma, she was the main character after she arrived in the story. She had amazing tenacity and the mind of a scientist, she was self disciplined and pragmatic. she listened to others and she learned.
On the whole I enjoyed Juliet Stevenson's reading, she differentiated characters nicely, has a pleasant tone and good pronunciation.
It is too long for that, but I always looked forward to the next opportunity and it is a good book to mull over the ideas it produces between sessions.
I loved the historical background to this novel, I was fascinated by the discipline and societal expectations placed upon the characters and their subsequent achievements. Hawaiin society sounded fascinating and difficult to cope with and I loved Alma's summing up of her life and her statement that she did not wish to say things that upset others - this pertaining to the arguments around Darwinian theories and peoples religious beliefs. A thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking novel