Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert


Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert, 2007.jpg

I have been avoiding this book for a long time simply because I so often find that books that have been hyped up are a big disappointment. However hearing that it has recently been released as a film made me decide that I really should read it if I was going to want to see the film. It is my policy to always try and read a book first, so I have my own visual pictures when I am reading and not those of the film. Well having now read ‘Eat, Pray Love’ I am not sure I will even bother with the film, as the book has neither inspired nor excited me as it seems to have done many people. On the other hand I did not hate it as other reviewers seem to have done, especially those that have been in similar life situations, struggling with heartbreak and divorce, but not able to run away from it all, which let’s face it is exactly what Elizabeth Gilbert was able to do by travelling to Italy, India and Indonesia.

I am left now feeling rather indifferent unable to either rave or rant, recommend or not, so will have to come down to saying it was OK as there was enough of interest, just about to keep me reading.  It started well as I liked the introduction that Elizabeth Gilbert gives the reader as to how she divided the book up. As the book was about her efforts to find balance in her life she decided to structure it like a japa mala, a string of beads used to count mantras (Sanskrit prayers) in sets of 108 repetitions. The number 108 is considered in Eastern philosophy circles to be an auspicious number as it is a three digit multiple of three, its digits add up to nine, also a multiple of three. The number three also represents balance according to the Holy Trinity, so dividing the book into three was easy for the three countries Italy, India and Indonesia. Then dividing the book into 108 different chapters, with 36 in each section was also auspicious to the authoress as she wrote the book during her thirty sixth year.

I thought this all sounded very clever and a good way to write up her experiences, it certainly worked for the section set in Italy as Elizabeth leaves her unhappiness behind her in the USA and sets off to find this so called balance she is looking for by first seeking pleasure in Rome, mainly in the food, EAT. This first section was in retrospect for me the best section as one felt she was moving forward with lots of adventures ahead of her, although living in Italy myself it also struck me that it did tend towards being somewhat stereotypical.  After four months in Italy Elizabeth moves on to an Ashram in India to find her spirituality, PRAY. I honestly found this section a bit of a chore to read, I think this was where maybe the 36 chapters were too many, there is only so much one can write about yoga, meditation and chanting after all, as interesting as those thoughts initially were. I was also disappointed to learn very little about India outside the Ashram as she became so intensely involved in finding herself that planned travelling never materialised. The final third of the year was spent in Indonesia, Bali in fact which was more interesting, although again maybe a little spun out to fulfil her chapters quota. It is here she finds LOVE despite not having set out to do so, having decided previously that she was going to be celibate for a year. In terms of learning some new facts this was also the best section as I felt I learnt a little about Balinese society.

Elizabeth does tend to come over at times as just another egocentric young woman with a rather dramatic view on the emotional upheaval of her life, of which the only solution was to travel east for spiritual enlightenment. I said it is an ok read and yes it is but I am somewhat cynical about her journey and resulting book, since discovering that Elizabeth Gilbert was apparently commissioned and paid in advance to write this book. Lucky lady but did it mean she was thinking of the end result and possible future film rights rather than writing from her heart?

If you are interested in reading more background information and updates on Elizabeth Gilberts life, here are a couple of links which may be of interest to you.

Wikipedia - Eat ,Pray, Love

Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love Website



Postscript – I have now watched this trailer and take back my earlier comment about not bothering to see the film! I will look out for it appearing in our DVD hire shop and bring it home to watch sometime.


  1. Well that is interesting Linda. As you know I saw the film when I was in Australia, but I wish I had had the chance to read the book beforehand. I think it may be interesting to try and read the book, to see what it is like, but I feel I will probably have a similar view to you after reading it.

  2. I also put off reading this. Don't do 'must read books' very often.
    Although having now read it I did enjoy the first two sections, the eating and praying but was fed up with the last section the passion for change seemed to fizzle out.
    Wouldn't read her next one. It would feel like too much of the same thing I feel.
    I will watch the movie at home from 'lovefilm'. But I'm a fan of Julia Roberts movies

  3. Cathy@ If it comes your way it might be worth reading, but as you mentioned your TBR pile was quite big I would not bother tracking down a copy in a hurry; especially as you already know the story having seen the film.

    Fire Byrd@ I like Julia Roberts and having now watched the trailer will be hiring the film, but like you not adding the follow up to my wishlist.

  4. I hated the book; will not see the film. It was superficial and gimmicky at best. Lucky girl, with all the time and money to escape and return unscathed, I kept saying to myself.
    I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

  5. I haven't read the book, but know several people who saw the film, and they all loved it, so I will probably catch it when it comes out on DVD. Nothing to do with this post, but an earlier on of yours - I have recently finished reading "The Family" by Anita Burgh, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although at times I did want to shake Jillian, one of the main characters. But, overall, I would thoroughly recommend it.

  6. I thought the book was self-indulgent, whiny and self-focused. I did, however, see the movie (not sure why since I didn't like the book) and thought it was OK. Definitely transfered better to film and didn't seem at all whiny. Not a "must see", though.

  7. I liked the book.. but i remember feeling the same about the India was a little boring..The movie was a huge let down for me..

  8. This has never appealled to me but I keep seeing it everywhere. Practically everyone on a bus or train or in my office that has a book has this one LOL

  9. Lakeviewer@ Certainly you are not alone, it does seem that this was a love or hate for most readers, I think I am in the minority in being indifferent!
    Thisisme@ I think I will wait for the DVD also,the Anita Burgh book is on my wishlist, thanks for thumbs up.
    Pam@ As I like Julia Roberts I think I will hire it when it comes out on DVD.
    Bedazzaled@ Interesting to hear you felt the film was not what you expected.
    Jessica@ It did not appeal to me either, I changed my mind when I heard about the film, as I felt I might want to see it. I always prefer to read the book first so that is how I ended up reading it.

  10. I haven't seen the film and I have no desire to. It took me a bit to get into the book but once I'd read the first few chapters, I really enjoyed the Italy section. The Thailand section, I enjoyed less and then Indian section the least. Basically, once the food was over, it all got a bit mediocre for me.

  11. Talli@Of course I am biased but the Italy section was the one I also enjoyed the most!

  12. This book (and DVD) is on my read/watch list!

  13. I've read this book and my thoughts were remarkably similar to yours. It didn't move me or stir me one way or the other. There were things I liked about the author - I did think she had a good turn of phrase and seemed full of fun - but I found the Pray part of the book annoying.

    I always think that any 'encounter' we have with Gof, should make us think less of ourselves (not in a self-esteem way but in a slefless way) and more of God - but her experiences seemed to have the opposite effect. Her meditations seemed extraordinarily centred on herself and what she could achieve as time went on.

    I've just ordered Elizabeth Von Arnim's The Enchanted April. Will let you know how I get on!


  14. The book didn't sound like my cup of tea, but I love Julia Roberts so maybe I'll hire the DVD when it comes out. Thanks for your thorough review, LLM.

  15. Meant to say, have a lovely Christmas!

  16. i have not read the book but saw and liked the film. happy new year!

  17. Happy New Year to you all, apologies for late replies.

    Buckeroomama@ Do read the book first if you can.

    Sarah@ You have made a very interesting point about the way the author does appear very self centred!

    Susie@ and Priya@ I only read the book because I want to see the film.

  18. Yes, I do agree with you about the India part. Of the three sections, that was the least interesting read for me. I had to plod through that part. And yes, I did think it a bit self-indulgent at times, but reminded myself that it was a memoir.

    I saw a TED talk that she did and decided that I like her and want to read more. :)

  19. Buckeroomama@ thanks for taking the time to pop over and comment after our earlier discussion.


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