Maria's Reviews > Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
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Mar 08, 08

Read in February, 2008

Don't bother with this book.

It took me nearly a year to finish it. I was so disgusted by the writer's apparent lack of awareness of her own privilege, her trite observations, and the unbelievably shallow way in which she represents a journey initiated by grief, that I initially couldn't bear to read beyond Italy. Like others who have written here, I made myself pick the book up again because so many people have raved about it, and I made myself finish it, hoping all the while there would be some redemptive insight or at least some small kernel of originality or wisdom. I was sorely disappointed. Liz is so obsessed with male attention throughout the book (in every section, she expounds in great detail on her flirtations with men, many of whom seem to "take care of her" or compliment her on her wit, beauty, or charm), that it makes her self-described quest to learn to be alone seem absurd and farcical. She does not have a feminist bone in her body; shocking for a woman who is purportedly on a quest for self-discovery after what she describes as a "devastaing divorce." She seems to have absolutely no capacity for self-awareness or reflection in this regard, and her superficial treatment of this and other aspects of her psyche bored me to tears. Basically, this memoir accounts her flirting her way across the globe into a new relationship, with little to no growth in self awareness that I can perceive. Even in India, her purported time of inward reflection, she attaches her herself to the likes of Richard from Texas, who seems a cross between a father figure and object of flirtation. Ultimately, she falls in love with a man much older than she, who seems to dote on her in quite a paternalistic way. When she spends pages talking about her bladder infection from too much sex, I have to question what her intentions are in writing about this? Why do we need to know about her bladder infection? What does it add to our understanding of her quest? To me, it says only, "Look! I'm desirable!" Not so interesting.

Additionally, her brand of spirituality certainly does not come close to transcending the fashionable Western obsession with all things Eastern, particularly Buddhism and the ashram culture. That a Westerner could go to India on her spiritual quest and have absolutely no awareness of 1) her gross appropriation of another culture's religion, and 2) the abject poverty that surrounds her, is inexusable. She oozes privilege at every turn, and that privilege remains unacknowledged and unexamined.

I was willing to look past my initial reaction that the end of a relationship is not, in the grand scheme of things, "that bad;" everyone's suffering certainly has its own validity. However, I was unable to muster much empathy for Elizabeth Gilbert despite my attempts to overcome my disgust at her shallow preoccupation.

Ultimately, this woman had nothing to teach me (other than that I should trust my own instincts to abandon a book when I have such a strong reaction of dislike from page one). I am sorry I spent the time and energy trying to finish it. I happened to read somewhere that she has recently bought a church in Manhattan which she is converting into her personal living space. And this is enlightenment? I am sickened that Paramount has bought the rights to the book for a motion picture, and that she stands to make even more money than she already has on this insipid memoir.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 53) (53 new)

Aldra Thank effing GAWD. I absolutely hated this book and am horrified by the rampant affection for it. I kept screaming at the pages, "Where is your editor?" Thank you for a little validation! Neurotic, revoltingly self-absorbed, utterly male-identified and shallow beyond comprehension. She had such a rich banquet from which to write, yet managed to crank out a whining, poorly written blog. Oy.

And Nannyjoy? Seriously? Taking personal offense over another person's perception of a piece of "literature" *cough* is rather asinine. Expressing opinion, not rampant praise, is the point of this site, capiche?

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm just so sick of hearing about this book that I'm glad someone trashed it. I think "Nannyjoy" must be Elizabeth Gilbert's mother's screen name.

message 3: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Well, it takes all kinds. Unfortunately.

It's funny, I feel like a lot of reviews I've read of this have been like, "This woman was a whiney, overprivileged pain in the ass, but for some reason I found myself liking this book in spite of that, and I hate myself a little for it, but there it is." I'm glad some readers are able to resist whatever odd allure this book holds (being extremely close-minded, I'll never find out for myself what that is) in order to trash on it properly. Elizabeth may be totally off-base, and this book may be amazing, but every time I see its stupid pasta-written title on the train I throw up a little bit in my mouth.

Nice review!

message 4: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Maria:
Happily, I have not bothered with this book.

Leftbanker I'm sure that you are just a compulsive reader like the rest of us which is why you suffered through this book. I used to read stuff that I saw other people reading in Seattle. Eat, Pray, Screw just seems like the literary (God, I hate to use that word in referring to this book) equivalent of those mobbing things that tech dorks do. You know, where they all text each other and show up at the same spot at the same time. I blame the big chain bookstores for force-feeding us this crap. It's simply easier for the stores (and the publishers) if everyone reads the same book at the same time. It's like the required reading for suburbanites who don't have libraries. It's just sad to think that if everyone weren't reading this mediocre drivel we could sell a few good books.

message 6: by Barb (new) - added it

Barb I too feel validated by other people's opinion of this book. I hated it from start to finish and I only forced myself to complete it because I kept hoping and thinking, 'gosh so many people liked it, maybe I'm missing something.....I better finish it'. To my dismay, it did not get better and in fact, got worse (if that was possible).
Self indulgent and whiney doesn't begin to describe the author. And unlike Leftbanker who blames the big chain bookstores, I blame Oprah for recommending this nonsense. Between this and James Frey, what self-respecting book/literature lover can take that woman's opinion seriously?

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Didn't read it. Didn't know anything about it. But I enjoyed the thorough thrashing you gave the book nonetheless. Well done.

message 8: by Ian (last edited Sep 09, 2009 09:19AM) (new)

Ian Great review, Maria. This book is not something I ever would have considered reading simply because it's so far removed from my genres. But I find it amusing that your review describes the book exactly as I would have imagined it to be, had someone asked me to describe the book without having read it.

Moira Russell OMG YES. I hated this book SO, SO MUCH. It was so awful. I used to work in a tiny indie bookstore, and when people wanted to buy this I would try to convince them to get Three Cups of Tea instead. It's Lipton Cup-o-Soup for the Superficial Soul.

Sally Thank you for so eloquently stating just what it was about this book that was so awful. I know many people who forced themselves to finish it even though they hated it/her from early on.

message 11: by Sandi (new)

Sandi I've never had any desire to read this book. It just sounds too New Age to me. Thank you for your review. It's convinced me to never give it a second thought.

message 12: by emily (new)

emily clark I've have been searching high and low for people who also hate this book and I finally decided to check out goodreads. THANK YOU THANK YOU. I think Gilbert wants us to pray to HER, not God.

La Petite Américaine I'm ashamed to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it was ... well ... sweet. That said, I really liked your review, especially the insight about the flirtations with men across the globe. I totally hadn't picked up on that.
One of my problems with the book was that she just ends up back at square one: married again and living in suburbia, and God knows how long this one will last. So, essentialy this spiritual journey was really just a husband-hunt? I'm glas someone else noticed it. ;)

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Phew, there are people who hated that book! Excellent review, double thumbs up, I agree completely!

message 15: by Lori (new) - rated it 1 star

Lori McLellan I am just starting this book and already I am in full agreement with your review. Unfortunately my obsessive need to finish what I start has kicked in and I have little power over it.

message 16: by Judy (new)

Judy Loved this review. I hadn't read the book (something about my aversion to the pasta cover and the hype) but finally was promted to start reading reviews when someone emailed me a link to the video of this woman's lecture at TED, of all things. I was appalled with her and her horrible speech, which seems to be in line with what everyone here says about this book. I thought I was maybe overreacting to her, and then read some reviews on the book's Amazon page, which are pretty much in line with the negative reviews here. The movie trailer with Julia Roberts is already out. So sad.

Stephbris Hear hear. Great review of a dreadful book. I kept thinking all the way through that me buying this book (a bookclub read no less) was putting money in her pocket. And now Julia Roberts is playing her in the movie! The world works in mysterious ways.....

Nadine Doolittle Oh dear heaven, I've found my home. A friend gave me this book and every woman I've met seems to adore it. I was beginning to doubt my sanity, my perception, my taste. This is a dreadful book. A shame-inducing book. Great review. Many thanks to all for the comments.

Catherine Card You said EVeRyThing I was feeling towards this book. Thanks for putting it into words. Good job!

Talia I dont think this was a good book it took me 6 and a half months i think it was too short and it disguseted me

message 21: by Kay (new)

Kay Hill I know there are a lot of girls who like this book, and feel like it's the key to the universe. The book is shallow, superficial, and obnoxious. I am grateful that there are grown women who share my sentiments.

Goranka Great review! I cannot understand how this book has become to inspire people because the book speaks one unrealized woman who I believe does not know what she has. This was supposed to be a book about self-discovery and attaining inner peace. Now they made it into a movie. I just think that it portrays an elusive image. She simply does not know what to do with her self. The only plausible thing she does is build a home for a poor Bali woman and her daughter. But the actual message of 'Eat, Pray and Love' still seems to elude me.

message 23: by Trina (new) - rated it 1 star

Trina Whenever anybody would find out I was reading this book, I'd get the same response: "So where are you in the book? Oh well, it'll get better." Oh yeah?! WHEN?! Cause I never got to this so-called "better"! I don't know how it got so many good reviews, because everybody that I've talked to has absolutely HATED this book!

message 24: by LisaAnneLisa (new)

LisaAnneLisa Thank you for the review(s). Just as I suspected and I will not bother with this one (that includes the movie too!). Thank You all!

message 25: by Melissa (last edited Oct 02, 2010 11:18PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Melissa I'm glad I'm not alone. I told a friend recently how much I despised this book and she told that maybe I wasn't it the right place in my life to enjoy the book. Can you believe that?!!!

message 26: by Jodie (new) - rated it 1 star

Jodie I could not agree with this review more!

message 27: by Trina (new) - rated it 1 star

Trina Melissa (Mel) wrote: "I'm glad I'm not alone. I told a friend recently how much I despised this book and she told that maybe I wasn't it the right place in my life to enjoy the book. Can you believe that?!!!"

So where exactly is this "right place"? Did she happen to tell you that? Maybe left of Denial, right of Literary Immaturity, and straight on to the land of Bitch-Whine-Moan???

message 28: by Dixie (new) - rated it 1 star

Dixie Thamrin Agree. Can't understand why people like this book. Such a boring and worthless thing to read.

message 29: by Jane85 (new) - added it

Jane85 I bought the book also after all the recommendations....mid way through India, I'm still struggling to get into it, agree completely with everything said here.

message 30: by Sonia (new) - rated it 1 star

Sonia Rudolph It is nice to hear that others felt the same way I did about this. The way others raved about the genius of this book I thought maybe I missed something.

message 31: by Mo (new) - rated it 1 star

Mo If I could write as well as you, this is exactly what I have would have written. I am outraged by this woman's personality. I do not understand how people enjoy (let alone love) this book. Being her friend would be exhausting and very one sided. Knowing that, how can someone love this book?

Michelle Oh my goodness, I started by saying the same thing in my review..."I never made it out of Italy". I'm pretty sure the only reason I watched the movie was because there was an elephant in there somewhere.

message 33: by Sus (new) - rated it 1 star

Sus you nailed it. well articulated.

message 34: by Karly (new) - rated it 1 star

Karly yup. her privilege was over-bearing. blind, white privilege. must have been why so many people loved this book, lol.

Audrey Rodgers Thank you for your review. I was thinking about picking it up but I realize that in the end, I'd end up mourning my time that would have been wasted on the book.

Jocelin Excellent review.

message 37: by Love.rebecca (new)

Love.rebecca Thank you. I found her so goddamn whiny. I mean everytime I went through a "nervous breakdown" I wish I had enough money to fly around the world for a year to learn about myself. I couldn't finish it, this rage started to build up inside me towards her. Boo fucking hoo

message 38: by James (new) - rated it 1 star

James Goeke Awesome review!
It's saddens me to think that so many people thought this shallow memoir valuable. A poignant commentary on our society.

Barbara U critize her so much, however she is not trying to show off, she was just being herself in the book, a person who likes to feel desirable, a person who notices and gives importance to things that others maybe we haven.t even ever bothered. Why to give that much importance to the pasta?? That,s not for me, but I respect that it might be important for her in that moment. A person can search their own path depending as well on their own personality and character, obviously another person within the same trips would have focused their attention in completely different things, that is also respectable, this is just Elizabeth Gilbert version.

Camille Cusumano Thanks for sharing your indepth view on this book. I would like to ask you something - do you think that if the book didn't have this "fairy tale" ending (she sort of finds her "prince") and instead ended with her enjoying her alone-ness and understanding herself more deeply, you would have liked this book better? I'm curious because I'm reading lots of memoirs by women mostly and I am teaching the genre a lot. Thanks.

message 41: by Sadia (new) - rated it 1 star

Sadia "...the writer's apparent lack of awareness of her own privilege, her trite observations, and the unbelievably shallow way in which she represents a journey initiated by grief..." You've summed up my experience reading the book within a sentence. A very fair review; just yes.

message 42: by Patty (new) - rated it 1 star

Patty Camille wrote: "Thanks for sharing your indepth view on this book. I would like to ask you something - do you think that if the book didn't have this "fairy tale" ending (she sort of finds her "prince") and instea..."

I forgot all about the fairy tale ending till I read this just now. I read the book some years ago. It wouldn't have made a difference for me. I think the fairy tale ending would be great IF I had felt she learned something about relationships before that. Relationships are a give and take thing and I think the best relationships have BOTH partners giving the majority of the time. After reading the book I felt the author just thought she should just take 99% of the time.

Jackie I can probably count on on hand the amount of books that I stop reading before the end and this is one of them. It is dire.

message 44: by Stop33 (new)

Stop33 My advice is, if you are not enjoying a book, don't persist. Life's too short!

La Petite Américaine Just got the notification in my email of the most recent comment on this post. What a pleasure to revisit this review (and I actually enjoyed EPL).

I think that this is one of the best reviews on goodreads: accurate, to the point, well-written, and genius in pointing out problematic aspects of a widely celebrated book -- and wonderfully, mercifully gif-free.

message 46: by Beth (new) - rated it 1 star

Beth Happy not being alone in hating this book. Thanks!

message 47: by Jedi (new) - rated it 1 star

Jedi On the Carpet hahha... in complete agreement. Not to mention the Julia Roberts movie rendition of this lacked appalling ethical standards as one the places they shot the scenes in Bali was promised monetary returns (maybe maximum couple of thousand US), but instead ruined a crop of fields and did a runner. The local villagers saw not one cent. Just another reason not to like this book.

message 48: by Patty (new) - rated it 1 star

Patty Stop33 wrote: "My advice is, if you are not enjoying a book, don't persist. Life's too short!"

In general I follow that course. Have not a problem putting down books I don't like. In this case a friend asked for my impressions and sincerely wanted to know. I really hoped to like it better just I could report that to her.

message 49: by Aimee (new)

Aimee If I had to tell Liz just one thing after trying and failing to read this book, I'd tell her "The men who compliment you on your wit and charm are either lying or stupid." I saw no wit and no charm, just a spoiled and neurotic woman who I wouldn't have in my book club if she begged me.

Crystal I thought I was lame and unintelligent for not being interested im this book. I could not read beyond Italy. it utterly bored me. great review!

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