Book Review: The Signature of All Things

Title: The Signature of All Things
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 499

I promise I’m almost done with my Elizabeth Gilbert phase (in fact, this is probably the last review). I was particularly interested in this novel, because it’s one she wrote after Eat, Pray, Love. From what I’ve read about her previous writing, it was fairly masculine and kind of Western. The Signature of All Things is Elizabeth Gilbert as she appears in EPL – feminist, spiritual, world-traveling, a little sensual. It’s a novel, of course, so it’s not actually about Gilbert. But her voice (as from EPL) pervades the book.

Signature follows Alma Whittaker, the plain, curious, lonely, and brilliant daughter of a botany legend. Through family deaths, thwarted love, career changes, and a trip across the world, she struggles with who she is as a woman and scientist.


I was fascinated by how clearly Gilbert’s voice as an author comes through the entire story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just potentially distracting. This novel clearly took a lot of research, since it’s filled with details about science and history. I also like that the story covers an entire lifetime. Since she has 80+ years of maturation to work with, the book feels very unrushed. In that time, Alma develops a lot, which is very neat to watch.


However, I didn’t like any of the characters in this book. I feel for Alma, but she’s a bit socially oblivious, so she gets on my nerves. Most of the supporting characters are also frustrating or else rather flat, so I didn’t like them either.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t entirely agree with Gilbert’s spiritual approach. I definitely disagreed with many of the concepts in this novel, so overall, it wasn’t a particularly satisfactory read.

All in all, it was an interesting read, if nothing else than to see what fiction from Elizabeth Gilbert looks like. The Signature of All Things is beautifully and thoughtfully written, but not especially satisfactory.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Signature of All Things

  1. Sorry to hear you didn’t like this one. 😦 I’m not a big fan of Gilbert’s but I LOVED The Signature of All Things. I liked Alma, but I liked her because she was stubborn and disagreeable and locked in her own world, but also vulnerable.

    • I wouldn’t say I don’t like it…I just don’t love it. Alma is a very real character, I think, but not a character I identify with. That’s not necessarily Gilbert’s fault though. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the book!

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