The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

the signature of all thingsBook Club reviews of The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the story of the life of Alma Whittaker, all eighty years. Alma is the only daughter of two intelligent people, and grows up with freedom and encouragement to explore and learn and contribute to the adult conversations which take place each night in her parents Philadelphia mansion. However, this is not without its cost – her social skills suffer and as the reader moves through her life with her, science, love and family intertwine.

Gloria: I liked this book.  I liked the voice of Alma and her thirst for learning.  Alma’s life was set in an enviable setting,  one of wealth and with a father who encouraged the gathering of knowledge.  The story takes place at a time that was not hospitable to woman scholars so it was interesting to see how the writer had to compensate for the anthropology of a male dominated botanist environment.  Typically, I don’t like books that try to explain life events with spiritual explanations but in The Signature of All Things , the author did a terrific job by keeping it ethereal rather than mystical.  I learned a new word…quim.  Umm.  I rate it a 3.0

Robin: I almost didn’t read this book because Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love, a book which everyone seemed to like except me. I couldn’t finish it. That said, The Signature of All Things is a truly amazing book. It is now on my top ten. I wouldn’t say it is an “I can’t put this down” kind of book. It’s long and not an easy read. That is because of the complexity of the situation. The story of the life of Alma Whittaker, the protagonist, we actually start with her father’s life before she was even born. She is a smart, not very beautiful botanist, intent on learning everything about everything. Her moral dilemma is love, but not just love, more than love, because she goes so deep into everything in her life. This tale is so rich with detail – how folks lived from 1800 on, the science of the times, Tahiti, Denmark, Philadelphia and more. I am rating this book 4.5

Paula: I really enjoyed this book.  I think the author made an immense  leap in her research and writing ability with this book.  I learned a lot about the science of botany, moss and history of global growth and awareness of plants identified and used treat potentially fatal illnesses. The status and determination of a wealthy woman to study and travel independently was very interesting to me. The story was complex and intriguing. I would recommend as a good read.  I can see myself reading it again some day in the future to make sure I didn’t miss something. I rate: 4.5


  1. Robin, I am with you as I hated her Eat, Pray book. I am glad to read these reviews so I may actually read this book. Otherwise I wouldn’t have given it a thought.

    Wow, you are already onto the next book yourself. I am impressed!

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