Elizabeth Gilbert and her UK editor Alexandra Pringle discuss The Signature of All Things, an extraordinary new novel of botany, exploration and desire by the author of Eat, Pray, Love.
It is 1800 and Alma Whittaker is born into a perfect Philadelphia winter. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant in Kew Gardens. Alma’s mother, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, is conversant in five living languages (and two dead ones) and her knowledge of botany is equal to any man’s. An independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, it is not long before Alma comes into her own within the world of plants and science.
The Signature of All Things soars across the globe from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam. Peopled with extraordinary characters – missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses and the quite mad – most of all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker, a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern.
‘A writer of incandescent talent’ Annie Proulx
Elizabeth Gilbert, acclaimed author of five books, is best known for Eat, Pray, Love, which has sold over ten million copies worldwide and was made into a film. Her short story collection Pilgrims, was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award, her novel Stern Men was a New York Times Notable Book and The Last American Man was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent work, Committed, was a Number One New York Times Bestseller. Elizabeth Gilbert lives in New Jersey.