The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth GilbertJudging all of Elizabeth Gilbert‘s books based on her Eat, Pray, Love was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made – especially since I haven’t even read Eat, Pray, Love. After reading The Signature of All Things, one thing is for sure, Gilbert can write. The Signature of All Things is a dense and multi-layered piece of literary fiction that puts the reputation of Eat, Pray, Love to shame.

I was convinced to read The Signature of All Things after so many people I respect in the blogging community told me it was worthwhile. It tells the long story of a woman botanist in the early 19th century. That was the hook that got me and sustained me through the book.

I had conceived of it as more of a travel story, and while she does venture forth to the South Pacific, for at least two thirds of the book she remains at her sprawling family home.

Who would like this book? The Signature of All Things is for historical fiction fans. The protagonist is an unconventional character in a time when women were meant to be highly conventional. Seeing how she negotiates her status is one of the major themes of the book. There is also a lot of engagement with theories of biology and evolution of the time. And of course, Darwin makes an appearance. So those interested in intellectual history will also like this book.


  1. When I finally read The Signature of All Things, I think I’m going to feel the same way! Although I had actually read Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel Stern Men (before Eat, Pray, Love hit the big time) and that was a totally different type of book from Eat, Pray, Love.

  2. I will definitely admit that I’ve been hesitant to pick this up because I had tried reading E, P, L so many years ago and was never able to finish. This does sound quite interesting though. What a great reminder that we shouldn’t judge a book by its author’s previous works πŸ˜‰

  3. This has been on my list since it came out. I have liked whatever I have read of hers, and even if I didn’t know anything about the author, the historical and scientific aspects of a female botanist in the 19th century really appeal to me. I’m glad you liked it. And, it’s also good to be reminded that I haven’t read it yet- these things can easily get overlooked!

  4. I have to admit that I did read Eat, Pray, Love — and while I hated most of the book, I did appreciate Gilbert’s ability to write pretty sentences. This book definitely sounds like it’s more my speed.

  5. Having read and disliked Eat, Pray, Love, I too judged Gilbert as one of the “don’t try this again” authors. However, the praise for The Signature of All Things has been very positive and the story really sounds like something that I’d enjoy reading, so I’ll most definitely give Gilbert another go.

  6. I’m the same as you – need to take off the judgey-pants and be open to Elizabeth Gilbert. I didn’t finish Eat, Pray, Love – soooooo self-indulgent it was unbearable. But like you, have heard only good things about this one.

  7. Thanks for sharing this! I had a similar thought – I wasn’t very interested in reading this book because I really didn’t enjoy Eat, Pray, Love. But I do like historical fiction and I like the idea of an unconventional woman character. I may have to give it a try!

  8. I think a lot of people have been hesitant about this one for that reason! Although I did read her book Committed (also non-fiction) and I loved it. Sounds a but like State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, which was wonderful, aside from her habit of giving you a disappointing ending. I will keep an open mind about this one!

  9. I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, but I didn’t think it was anything special so I didn’t go out of my way to pick this up. You’ve convinced me I should though! I did like her writing style and it would be fun to see what she can do in the literary fiction genre.

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