Book Review: The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things coverTitle: The Signature of All Things
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
ISBN: 9780670024858
Pages: 512
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Henry Whitaker came from nothing, but with his love of and knowledge of botany, he made a fortune for himself in 18th century Europe before settling in the United States as the richest man in Philadelphia. His daughter Alma, born in 1800, inherits her father’s perspicacity and love of plants as she makes her way through life, constrained by being a woman in the 19th century.

Snapshot Review:

A gorgeous novel with amazing breadth, The Signature of All Things is a character-driven novel with the amazing Alma at its center. Though it’s long, it is absolutely a book that will keep you entertained from beginning to end.

Full Review:

I’ll admit it. When The Signature of All Things was released, I had very little interest in it because of the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Pray, Love fame. I wasn’t a huge fan of that book and didn’t really care to read any more of her books. But as buzz built for the novel, I realized that Gilbert’s fiction might be worth a try. And I have to say, I was completely, utterly, and horribly wrong about this book—it’s an absolutely amazing novel and I only wish I’d read it sooner.

The Signature of All Things follows the Whitaker family’s fortune, but it’s Alma who is at the center of this luminous novel. She’s a quite plain girl (and turns into a plain woman) but her mind is incredibly sharp. The reader comes to know Alma intimately over the course of the novel; she becomes a living, breathing person, a friend and confidante. Readers who enjoy character-driven novels will be completely shocked at how emotionally swept away they are by this book. The characters, both major and minor, are, quite simply, brilliant.

The novel is enhanced by all the notes, thoughts, and musings about botany, which give it an added depth. Indeed, this novel is so sweeping, spanning both the 18th and 19th centuries, from Philadelphia to the Netherlands to Tahiti, that it’s hard to review. There’s just so much that happens that any review seems woefully inadequate and incomplete without discussing pivotal events that occur later in the novel, which of course I don’t do because I firmly believe it’s best to go into any book knowing as little as possible. Therefore, I know it seems like I haven’t said much of anything about The Signature of All Things, but there’s not much more I can say.

This is a book that, above all, will really make you feel. You’ll become invested in Alma and the other characters; you’ll feel her pain at being alone; you’ll feel her love for her mosses and her bewilderment at her sister. I can’t describe enough how much Gilbert emotionally involves the reader in the story, drawing them in and making sure their attention won’t wander for a second. And that’s a huge feat, considering that The Signature of All Things is over 500 pages. Usually, long books are difficult with my short attention span, but this novel kept me absolutely riveted for every second I spent with it. Never have I been more happy to have my preconceptions proven completely and utterly wrong.

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  1. I was waiting for your review after reading so many good reviews about this one..I did not like ‘Eat Pray Love’ very much and hence was skeptical about this one…But now, I will read it when I get a chance.

  2. I never actually read Eat, Pray, Love as I disliked the synopsis so much and I accepted this book for review after a lot of hesitation, but like you, I just loved it, It’s so wonderfully written, and overall thoroughly satisfying book.

  3. I’m not a fan of Eat, Pray, Love either – or as I call it Eat, Pray, Whine. But like you, I’ve heard great things about this book. On to my TBR list it goes!

  4. I also didn’t care for EAT, PRAY, LOVE, but I’m glad to hear this newest book of hers is much different. Great review!

  5. I was keen to read the this as the previous book of the author had totally got me hooked… and I was a little nervous.. as generally when we expect a lot.. things do not get matched to the levels. Now having read the book… I can very gladly say that I found it equally amazing… The characters in the book are strong, especially if I talk about the lead, Alma, I found her awsome.. Her feelings, thoughts. actions have been very beautifully described and aomewhere somehow happen to relate to every gal reading the book. From materialistic description, thirst for knowlwdge to spiritual insight… everything flows like a beautiful infact indispensable sequence thereby truly signing for all things.


  1. […] “Usually, long books are difficult with my short attention span, but this novel kept me absolutely riveted for every second I spent with it.” –  S. Krishna’s Books […]

  2. […] The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert […]

  3. […] “Usually, long books are difficult with my short attention span, but this novel kept me absolutely riveted for every second I spent with it.” –  S. Krishna’s Books […]

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