Travel Thursday: The Signature of All Things

Travel Thursday is a weekly bookish meme that combines two of my favorite things: reading and traveling. The goal is to choose a book that took you somewhere new (or somewhere you’d like to visit again)!

I would love to read more about everyone else’s literary travels as well! So here are some general guidelines for Travel Thursday if you’d like to participate!

The Rules:
  1. Every Thursday (or any Thursday you want to participate), choose a book that features somewhere you’d like to travel to! It could be somewhere you’ve never been before or somewhere you’d like to visit again.
  2. Include a description of the location and why you’d like to visit!
  3. Link back to me so I can find new blogs to follow (and add new places to my travel bucket list)!

The Signature of All Things

  • Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Series: N/a
  • Year of publication: 2013
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting(s): London (England), Peru, Philadelphia (USA), Tahiti, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
  • Goodreads Synopsis:

A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed.

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction — into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist — but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who — born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution — bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Thoughts and Photos

I listened to this one as an audiobook a couple years ago and absolutely loved it. It’s one that has really stayed with me due to its strong and intelligent female protagonist, powerful themes of desire, and its sprawling setting that spans both time and space. It’s set in the 18th and 19th centuries, and yet it still manages to feel so modern and relatable. As for the setting, if you could only choose one book to help you feel like you were traveling the world, this would be the book you should choose. Alma’s journey is both spiritual and physical, and as a reader it feels like you’re right there with her every step of the way.

Alma’s life and journey begin in Philadelphia, but her work as a botanist studying mosses ends up taking her all over the world, including to Tahiti and Amsterdam! Before that, her father’s journeys take us to London and Peru. If there were other settings that I’ve forgotten about, I apologize! It’s been a while since I’ve read it, and some of the details have escaped me. However, the overall message and sense of wanderlust of the book have stayed with me, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone! It is a very long book, which I found a little daunting at first, but it’s totally worth it so don’t let that deter you!

Here are some images inspired by the settings of The Signature of All Things!

Docks & Dockyards in 18th Century London | COLLETTE CAMERON
Docks and dockyards in 18th century London (Image by Collete Cameron)
Peru - United States Department of State
Peru (Image by State Department)
Peru - Statistics, Rankings, News | U.S. News Best Countries
Peru (Image by
Peru to go under lockdown once again | Times of India Travel
Peru (Image by Times of India)
100 Philadelphia Virtual Experiences You Can Explore From Home
Philadelphia (Image by Philadelphia Magazine)
10 Best Things to Do in Philadelphia - What is Philadelphia Most Famous  For? – Go Guides
Philadelphia (Image by
Mapping Philly's 15 historic districts - Curbed Philly
Historic Philadelphia (Image by Curbed Philly)
Philadelphia historic index: a guide to what's worth your time - On top of  Philly news
Historic Philadelphia (Image by Billy Penn)
Where is Tahiti? | Venture Tahiti
Tahiti (Image by Venture Tahiti)
10 Facts You Didn't Know About Tahiti | Entire Travel Group
Tahiti (Image by Entire Travel Group)
Amsterdam Travel Guide - Things To Do & Vacation Ideas | Travel + Leisure
Amsterdam (Image by Travel + Leisure)
I amsterdam - Your guide to visit, enjoy, live, work & invest in Amsterdam  | I amsterdam
Amsterdam (Image by

The Signature of All Things is a beautiful book with many incredible settings. It’s perfect for those who want to travel the world (through books or otherwise)!

I wonder… Where in the world will my next book take me?

Leave a comment below describing your most recent literary travels!

4 thoughts on “Travel Thursday: The Signature of All Things

  1. Oh! I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert since I read eat, Pray, Love in high school. The Signature of All Things is on my TBR List.

    My most recent Literary Travel has been set in Tucson, Arizona reading Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James.

    Liked by 1 person

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