Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert

I've resisted reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert for a long time now. I've heard the hype, and I've heard how legions of women found something special within the pages (my copy from the library was well worn!), but I just had no desire to read it. One reason that I've resisted is because the premise of the book just didn't sound that interesting to me. The second reason is because books usually don't live up to their hype, in my opinion, although I have been proven wrong with that before. I finally gave in and took this one out of the library when a blogger whose opinion I respect, especially when it comes to books that I may enjoy, recommended it to me. I'll also be going to see the movie version next week with my sisters-in-laws, and figured that now was as good a time as any to read this one for myself.

Elizabeth Gilbert has just gone through a nasty divorce and a disastrous relationship with a lover and has decided that she needs time to heal. She loves travel with a passion and decides that travelling to three different places, each for a period of four months, will allow her the time that she needs to heal and carry on with her life. The first place that she chooses to visit is Italy. She decides on Italy because she truly loves the language and wants to be able to experience it first-hand. Elizabeth spends her time in Italy exploring not museums or churches or picturesque scenes, but food. Food helps her to heal her body, and her time spent there is all about pleasure.

From there she travels to India, to spend time at the Ashram of her Guru. Although she initially plans to stay for only six weeks, she ends up staying on for the full four months and learns the art of meditation and spiritual reflection. She spends time cleansing herself of her past and all of the toxic thoughts that she carries with her.

Now her body and her spirituality have both received attention, so Elizabeth brings those aspects together for the final part of her journey, which takes part in Indonesia. There she spends time with an ancient medicine man (age unknown), meets a collection of new friends and yes, she finally takes a lover.

I wanted to love this book, I honestly did. I found the beginning quite boring- all Elizabeth really did was eat. I appreciated her pursuit of pure pleasure, but couldn't truly relate to it. Seeking pleasure 24/7 is not a reality for most of us, so it was hard to relate to this part. The India section started out with promise. I was interested in learning about the Ashram and its teachings, but it started to get long-winded towards the end of that section. Special note should be made that I really enjoyed the parts involving Richard from Texas. He was a wholly lovable character, and his insights were spot-on. My favourite section was the Indonesian one. I loved the time that she spends with her friend the medicine man, Ketut. I appreciated her friendship with Wayan, a healer as well. What was particularly interesting was the way that Indonesians approach medicine. We receive medicine along with the instructions that "You should feel better in 3-5 days", but Indonesians and their herbs and rituals have you feeling better within hours. I wish that our Western society could embrace this more. Their unique rituals (for example, the ritual that takes place when babies are six months old) are particularly interesting, and their culture was fascinating to learn about.

When all is said and done, I didn't love this book, but I didn't hate it. As an observer I appreciated Gilbert's insights into different cultures and places, but I was waiting for something to grab me, I was waiting for that elusive "ah ha" moment. That moment just didn't come, and ultimately, Eat, Pray, Love failed to resonate with me personally. It was just a moderately interesting story about one woman's personal journey. Perhaps I didn't read this at the right time of my life, and maybe this one would make more sense if I read it in a couple of years. Whatever the reason for my detachment, I'm not going to beat myself up over the fact that this one just wasn't the book for me.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Fans of memoirs as well as armchair travellers
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010, 2010 Support Your Local Library Challenge


  1. Sorry it wasn't your cup of tea. To each their own, right? :)

  2. I read this 3 years ago and really like it - I happened to be traveling at the time and I think that helped me relate to her journey. I finished that trip in Bali and reading about her experience while there myself was great! I saw the movie last night - the scenes from Bali are absolutely beautiful!

  3. Thanks for the review. I have been in the should I/shouldn't I situation with this book as well. Just couldn't figure out whether I wanted to but now I feel like, I really don't want to. So thanks for helping me with my indecision :-)

  4. I am looking forward to seeing the movie- I go tomorrow with my sister-in-laws. I think that perhaps I'll be able to sit back and enjoy it from an entertainment POV, rather than as someone expecting for it to resonate with her!

  5. I haven't read this one either. I saw the author on Oprah one day and she turned me off. Having said all of that, I'm going to see the movie with a friend today.

  6. Oh, I'm totally an armchair traveler -- and I've had this one on my radar for so long, considering it's so popular with many women. I saw the film last weekend and enjoyed it, though it felt long to me at points... and, as my mom told me, "the book is better." She's reading my copy of Eat, Pray, Love now -- and hopefully I'll get to it someday soon.

  7. I understand your vantage point. Interesting, I read it when it came out and I was in a transitional period, a bit restless with life as it was and in that state abandoning the world to sort it out inspired me. Now, years later, having gone to see the movie the whole thing fell flat for me. It started to seem very indulgent and contrived. Life and timing. That is my new motto for everything these days as timing seems to pertinent to what works and when, especially with literature.

    Interesting to hear your honest personal vantage point; thank you for sharing.

    Alicia @