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.
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.