Signature of All Things, The

Gilbert, Elizabeth

  14 Reviews

In the 1800s, a period not known for its investment in women, what sets Alma Whittaker apart from other young women her age is the exceptional education she receives. With a father who has made his fortune from his knowledge of plants, Alma's prospects favour the botanical more than the marital, but it is through her pursuit of knowledge, (particularly through the study of mosses) that will give her the opportunity to aspire to achieve both.

In a story that circles the globe and is rich with larger-than-life characters, Alma is a woman of the Age of Enlightenment, grappling with a changing world but courageous enough as a contemporary of Darwin to postulate her own theory of evolution. An interesting and engaging story from a bygone era with a heroine fit for the challenge. [Big read}

Comments from Groups

Greatly enjoyed. Readers were swept along through this story which was enthralling, disturbing, well researched and, quite simply, a book to recommend. A few of our group had not managed to read it, but they are now going to remedy that! Wellington 041

A very interesting read - something for everyone. The botany and history were very nicely woven into the fiction. The member who likes fiction least of all the various genres, was happy with it too. We all learned a lot about moss. Auckland 020

Most book club members found the book to be ponderous, however we found some of the facts very interesting. Auckland 339

There were divided opinions regarding this book. We enjoyed the writing style, but some members felt the story "sagged" in the middle! All appreciated the research done on the botany subjects. The underlying "sensual" element was appreciated by some members, not others! Amberley 001

This one was a surprise. We were expecting "chick-lit", instead we got a well-researched, well-written and entertaining book. Although most definitely not a quick read, it has enough twists and turns to keep you interested until the end. Christchurch 299

Most of the group read most of this long winded, and sometimes overly fanciful book. The writing was good in patches, but the characters were too one-dimensional. Christchurch 239

This book was a good choice for our group. We all agreed the writing is beautiful. Gilbert evokes physical descriptions and powerful emotions equally well. The story is exceedingly complex in some ways, such that each time we felt the discussion drawing to a close, someone would begin again with another aspect not yet explored. The characters were SO unique and strongly drawn. We appreciated Gilbert making the book very authentic with the inclusion of actual historical figures of the time (Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin, Wallace etc). We spent about 2 hours on our discussion. Hokitika 001



AUCK 440
Some in the group put off by the length, and the fact that the author also wrote 'Eat, Pray, Love', but those who overcame these hurdles really loved this book - beautifully written, with engaging heroine and epic scale covering a huge range of topics.
We all enjoyed the beautiful writing of the book. The amount of research that Elizabeth Gilbert had to have done, even before she started writing! We all agreed that we couldn't put the book down until it was finished.
A long read enjoyed by most. It created lots of discussion. We thought it could have been split into a couple of books.
Half of our group really enjoyed and appreciated the detail. The other half felt it was a bit overly indulgent and wordy. Good discussion.
TAUP 012
Not everyone read this book, but those who did enjoyed it.
We loved it!! Great discussions. Big read and a few didn't get there, but the ones that did loved it.
All of us loved the book and a lot of discussion ensued. All felt it was wonderfully written; beautiful prose that we all kept referring back to. A strong, intelligent, yet vulnerable main character who we were all in awe of. We learnt a lot about mosses, botany, Captain James Cook, Sir Joseph Banks - no one wanted the book to end.
We found this book very interesting and thoroughly researched. The characters were very real, perhaps with the exception of Ambrose. We did think some parts were unnecessary or long winded, but overall we enjoyed the read.
A rich and well-researched tapestry of history and science, offset by a main character that was hard to relate to. Perhaps too much 'waffle' also - needed editing.
AUCK 365
The person who chose it was very surprised at the difference between this, and "Eat, Pray, Love". We had a 50/50 split, although all agreed it was well researched. Two did not finish due to their lack of engagement with the character....and the length!
NAP 023
Another thought provoking story - beginning and ending very well-written, but the middle sagged and some of the group gave up on it. Elizabeth Gilbert had obviously spent time researching historically, and we all found the references to Sir Joseph Banks and Captain Cook interesting. Much food for thought in the topic - resulted in good discussion!
NELS 054
Some beautiful parts to this long book. We were really glad not to have given up though - it was very satisfying by the end. Full of such interesting historical detail and rich characters.
We loved the book - we are all into mosses now!
CHCH 297
The group enjoyed the book, but all found it hard to engage with initially because of the point of view of the writing which felt quite distant. The characters were interesting though, and people wanted to know more about them as they read on.