The Signature of All Things

Elizabeth Gilbert  |  Fiction


A sincere thank you goes out to friends who convinced me to give Elizabeth Gilbert one more try!  I found The Signature of All Things interesting, compelling, intriguing and rich.  This is the story of Alma, born in 1800 to Henry Whittaker, the richest man in Philadelphia.  The novel portrays her entire life, from birth to death.  Alma becomes a brilliant and talented botanist with, as was the norm for young women of this time, no formal education.  We are privileged to witness this remarkable woman, who, with her independence her passion, her brain and her conversational skills, is way ahead of what we might expect for a well-heeled woman of the 19th century.

Gilbert takes us into Alma’s thoughts, fears and dreams.  We also are witness to how fine scientific minds view the world, and to the growth of all arms of science in this period.  The setting for this interesting novel is not only Philadelphia – Alma does travel as well, and we witness some other parts of the world through her eyes.

I was lukewarm on Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic (see my blog post on the latter). I found Gilbert to be stuck in her own frame of reference and not very good at making her revelations applicable to other readers in these non-fiction books. But her fiction – wow!  I definitely recommend this tale for a captivating read.



4 responses on “The Signature of All Things

  1. Mary C Crawford

    Hope I was one of the ones who recommended. Hesitated too because her previous writing was a turn-off. Would also give this book four-hearts!

  2. Sigal Goldstein

    I’m so glad you loved it because I did too. My father is a scientist and this book reminded me how I love the scientific mind. I also loved how she used language in a modern style that yet evoked the 19th century.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      Sigal – A friend told me about a book titled The Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, which has a similar theme. I have requested it at the library. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Teresa Rozic

    This is one of my favorite books this year. When I finished it, I let out a long breath and thought, “A life well-lived, Alma.”