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“The Signature of All Things”: Adventures of a lady scientist

Some of us have been waiting for Elizabeth Gilbert to get back to writing fiction for a long time now. "Stern Men," her sparkling novel about a young woman going to work among Maine lobstermen, was published in 2000, and while it's hard to begrudge the author the success that followed "Eat Pray Love," it was nevertheless vexing that the memoir centered on three activities, only one of which I had much interest in reading about.

But the wait is over, and anyone eager to dive into the audiobook version of Gilbert's new novel, "The Signature of All Things," will be even more pleased to learn that the narrator is the British actress Juliet Stevenson. Stevenson's face would be instantly familiar to Anglophiles everywhere, especially those with a penchant for British TV (her films include "Truly Madly Deeply" and "Drowning by Numbers"), but she's also a first-class narrator. Her reading of Ian McEwan's "Sweet Tooth" leant dignity to a character for whom McEwan himself seemed to feel a rather condescending fondness, and listening to all six of Stevenson narrations of Jane Austen's novels in a row would approach this audiobook aficionado's notion of nirvana.

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