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article imageElizabeth Gilbert reads from new novel at Toronto book signing Special

By Alexandra Christopoulos     Aug 16, 2013 in Entertainment
Toronto - 'Eat, Pray, Love 'author Elizabeth Gilbert arrived in Toronto yesterday, kicking off the official tour of her latest novel, 'The Signature of All Things. ' It was the author's first public appearance for the new book.
Gilbert's fans were treated to a meet and greet session and a free, advanced copy of 'The Signature of All Things', which doesn't hit shelves until October. The evening was hosted by Penguin Books.
As a successful autobiographer, Gilbert takes the reader on another type of journey, through an account of historical fiction in 'The Signature of All Things' Alma Whittaker, a 19th century female botanical explorer, is Gilbert's heroine and sets the story for the novel. Despite being the daughter of a wealthy botanist, Alma is still a woman of her time and struggles to learn how to handle dealing with her circumstances.
Laurie Grassi, books editor of Chatelaine magazine, also interviewed Gilbert during the event. Before sitting down with Grassi, Gilbert read a passage from the book and discussed what it was like to return to the world of fiction, after keeping away from it for over a decade.
"After Eat, Pray, Love, there was just a bit of pressure, but once the spell was broken, I have never felt so free to write."
In a sense, Gilbert admitted to feeling somewhat intimidated as she began the writing process for 'The Signature of All Things,' but said she enjoyed working on the novel immensely.
"At first, it felt very abstract to me, going back to fiction after writing non-fiction. It was almost like a language I had to learn again, but then I realized, "Oh, ya, " we do it for pleasure."
Next to some of her other works, Gilbert expressed that her new novel was "just play" and commented on how grateful she was for the shared sense of community she felt while finishing the book.
"It was joyful and celebratory to write. It was also hard, but I don't mind hard work."
When asked if it was easier to return to make believe, Gilbert told the audience that she hadn't done it in so long, but remembered being inspired by a powerful sense of imagination from an early age.
" Growing up, my sister and I didn't have TV and our parents were really into chores, so that was a great grounds for fostering creativity... We could become time travelers, for instance, with pet dinosaurs, but then one of us had gotten polio..."
But, at the same time, Gilbert explained this novel wasn't a book she could have written as readily, compared to her earlier years in writing.
"This novel took up three years of research, while I worked on it, so it wasn't a book I could have written when I was 24 and working in a bar, because you don't have the time or resources to commit to that dedication level, and I wanted to honor the years I didn't have that."
The title of Gilbert's current work also reveals a lot, as the author spoke about it briefly.
"The minute I heard that phrase (The Signature of All Things), I knew it was going to be the title of the book and to an extent, everyone in this novel is searching for their own signature in many shapes and forms, although it refers to plants."
The phrase refers to the name of a theory coined by a 16th century German mystic, who believed that God had imprinted a message into the shape and form of every plant on Earth about what that plant was for. This theory, Gilbert said, served as a great tie in for the rest of the novel, combining her passions for historical research in 'The Signature of All Things' and telling the story of a strong, female lead character (as much as the novel is an examination of the past).
"Female characters typically get two endings in works of fiction: good or bad. I wanted to make my book more relatable to real women of today."
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