Holly's Reviews > Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
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's review
May 28, 2008

did not like it
Read in February, 2008

** spoiler alert ** I have copied this from a blog I wrote a few weeks ago:

I've recently given in. I normally don't go for the Oprah-style self-help mumbo-jumbo. However, the hype surrounding "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert was just too frenzied to ignore. So I gave in and read the book. "Eat, Pray, Love" is about "one woman's search for everything across Italy, India" and blah, blah, blah, do we really care?

"Liz" starts out in the first chapter by making me smirk. She is sitting across from a real Italian Stallion at a table in a cafe in Rome, and contemplating sleeping with him. Then it occurs to her that at that point in her life (her mid-30s I might add), that it may not be wise to try to get over another man by getting involved with a new one. Is it just me, or am I the only one who thinks that one should already know that? If this is supposed to be profound, she's really missing the mark.

Before this journey Liz embarks on, she has just divorced her husband who basically took her for everything she had. She had been living with a man named David with whom she'd been having an extramarital affair and this relationship wasn't working either but she was still pining away for him. Basically she's a serial monogamist with attachment disorder. So Liz decides to undertake a "spiritual journey" as well as a geographical one, all the while planning and being paid to write this book about it. She'd been able to take this journey of hers because of the advance she'd acquired in preparation for this book. Sound fishy already?

The book is divided up into sections, hence the title "Eat, Pray, Love". The "Eat" section is where newly divorced Liz moves from New York to Italy to further her study of the Italian language and to eat carbs with wild abandon. Sounds good, but she spends most of her four months there moping around and using food as a crutch to help her deal with her depression. She meets some nice people and eats a lot. Gluttony is not becoming. Move on to section two.

Section two is the "Pray" section. She moves to an ashram in India for four months so that she can meditate. This is the part where we're supposed to think that Liz is just "oh so spiritual" because she meditates. She whines on about how hard it is for her at first to meditate because of her emotional baggage and the only saving grace is a Texan named Richard who won't let her mope around. Richard is like her own personal gadfly, never letting her just coast along and settle for her misery. One thing that Richard said to her when she was whining about missing David was that soul mates are not supposed to be forever. That they're designed to essentially come into your life, show you parts of yourself that you never knew existed and then move on. I have felt that way as well, and it's something that I truly believe in so I could identify with that.

So Liz eventually settles down into meditating and then tries to explain to us how she has become enlightened in India. From a Buddhist perspective, if you notice your own enlightenment, that ain't it. Sorry, Liz. You're not a Buddha. The sensation she was trying to describe is familiar to me, and I've also read about a lot of other people who have described it that way, but to actually hint that you've attained enlightenment at the end of four months of ashram living is way off the mark. Perhaps I'm just being too cynical, but even so I just love the way that life comes along and kicks you in the ass as soon as you think you've got things figured out. It doesn't let you start to feel smug, which is the way this book felt to me. A journey across Italy, India and Bali where nothing really happens but you somehow feel the sense of entitlement enough to become smug.

Next we move on to Bali, where Liz had visited before. This is where she's supposed to find a balance between earthly pleasure and spirituality. Liz meets up with an old medicine man that she'd met on her previous trip who'd told her that she was going to come back and live with his family for four months. For some reason it had never occurred to her that me might have said that to nearly every Westerner he'd met. On arriving the medicine man has no recollection of her at first, but explains it away as if it's just because she looks like an entirely new woman. This is supposed to make us feel that yes, she has had a wonderful transformation due to her spiritual journey. See how that works?

I actually liked a lot of the section on Bali, because there were other interesting and more developed characters in the book and I didn't have to be all alone with Liz for extended periods of time while I was reading. This is of course where Liz meets "The Great Love of Her Life". Because a self-help book written by a woman and for women can't end until the female heroine has met "The Great Love of Her Life". Which of course she can only meet after learning to love herself.

I know that this book is supposed to be autobiographical and that she is actually still involved with this man. However, the book could have ended just as well without implying that to really figure your life out, your place in the universe and to be emotionally healthy, that you need to find a man in the end. This idea that "real love", this mature, romantic love can only be achieved after you've worked out your own personal demons and after you've learned to love yourself is just trite. It is insulting to the intellect of every female alive to have the outcome of every volume of "chick lit" end with a great romantic love story. Real life is not reflective of that ideal, and I wonder how much of this "autobiography" was embellished to adhere to that formula; how much of the story was omitted because it didn't fit with the way the book flowed and how the story needed to transpire in order for this book to become "The Next Big Thing".

All in all I enjoyed the book, but sometimes I became smug in Liz's stead and laughed and pointed at her while shrieking, "You don't realise that yet?!" in my most infuriated inner monologue voice. It's worth a read because some of the advice that other people have given her is worthwhile but just because she was the one that wrote it down and published it, it doesn't mean that it's coming from her. I can't even get into how her privileged life has allowed her to take an entire year off from working or living in the real world in order to turn her life around in the first place. Or how misleading it is to her devout followers, The Oprahites who take her word as gospel and memorise passages from this book as they all wait around for "The Great Love of Their Lives" to materialise now that they've been saved by proxy through Gilbert's experience. Eat, pray, gag.

Perhaps this book is above me because I'm young. Perhaps it's because I'm not divorced. Maybe I'm too cynical and Elizabeth Gilbert is a great mystic, after all. Excuses aside, I still think I'm going to wait around for life to kick Liz on the arse and remind her that she's not finished yet; that she really doesn't have things all figured out into nice little packages. The universe will right itself on its own, after all. It always does.
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Reading Progress

02/05/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-29 of 29) (29 new)

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Karla my thoughts exactly...

Melissa I hated this book myself. I read a good portion of it, but couldn't even finish it. Time is too precious.

Valerie I am still on the Italy part, but am getting frustrated with the book. Because of the hype, I really expected more. Your review so far is dead on. And reading about the end- her finding the Great love of her life- really ticks me off. First of all, in the beginnnig of the book, she makes it seem like David is just some rebound guy but then she refers to HIM as the great love of her life.
She seems really overdramatic and self absorbed and I don't know if I'll be able to finish this book, frankly. Message no 2. is right: Time is too precious.. to spend it on a self absorbed whiny brat.

message 4: by Mae (new) - rated it 1 star

Mae Your review is positively brilliant, especially this part:

" It is insulting to the intellect of every female alive to have the outcome of every volume of "chick lit" end with a great romantic love story."

As I stated in my very brief review, the book is insipid, and I suspect hat Ms. Gilbert is an unmedicated bipolar. But as you point out, she is also a serial monogomist with attachment disorder. If I'm going to read books by crazy women, I will read Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf.

Christine I have to agree -- couldn't get past the second chapter. She must know someone in the publishing business . . .

Sarah Fishburn YES!! To everything you mentioned --- and I am NOT young!
The ONLY thing that rang true for me was the thing about soul mates coming, and going.

I thought the travel observations might kick ass, but who needs all the bitching and moaning, aka whining. I prefer the travel channel. . .

I just hope by now she has pulled herself up by her dang expensive bootstraps. . .

message 7: by Siyuan (last edited Sep 17, 2008 01:57PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Siyuan Bali was also the only section I started to really get into, for the same reasons. The descriptions of the landscape, the way the actual locals live, the lives that Ketut and Wayan have led, etc.

but, she winds up setting most of that aside for Felipe. when she revealed that she'd stopped visiting Ketut after getting together with her doting, older Brazilian, I found that particularly telling. But no, she could not have ended the book before getting into the romance with Felipe, because despite the euphoric scene with her kissing trees in India, it's only when she's sleeping with Felipe that she remarks upon how great life and the world and everything in it seems when you're falling in love. if anything, i feel like, to get to the true core of this book, you could take out the bulk of it and re-title it, "To Get Over Someone You Have to Get Under Someone Else." Perhaps subtitled, to justify the travel, "How I Became Mentally Healthy and Attractive Again So I Could Get Under Someone Else."

Holly Exactly! I prefer that title as well. It's not quite so pretentious and is even more catchy.

Angie McCloskey Holly, your review was much more enjoyable a read than this book! After telling him about why I was hating this book, my husband aptly nicknamed this book, "Me, Me, Me," but "Eat, Pray, Gag" is even funnier. Thanks for the insight- hey, who needs annoying friends when you have this book? If she was in my cell, I'd roll my eyes every time I saw her name on an incomming call. At least I didn't spend money to be irritated by her. And at least I don't have to keep pretending I'm not home when she calls.

message 10: by Holly (new) - rated it 1 star

Holly So true. I can turn the tv off every time she's on Oprah.

"Me, Me, Me" would have been a wonderful title.

message 11: by Tremolo (new)

Tremolo EAT, PRAY, GAG!!! i must say i laughed out loud at that one. classic.

basically, you summed up all of the problems i had with this book better than i ever could have. i completely stand by and agree with all that you mentioned. keep up the good work!

message 12: by Holly (new) - rated it 1 star

Holly Thank you for your support. Here I was, worrying about receiving hate mail. None thus far.

message 13: by Holly (new) - rated it 1 star

Holly Well good for you; and the rest of the human race!

Susan "Perhaps this book is above me because I'm young"
Ha ha! I thought maybe I was too old to appreciate this book. Liz is extremely immature and self-absorbed to the point of toxicity. It distresses me to hear that Oprah fans are memorizing passages of this book! Please tell me it's not so!

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

Holly Alas, it's true. I don't watch, but my sister does and apparently Liz has been on the show several times, talking about her "enlightenment".

Seligne What a super review! Thanks for taking the time to write it...

message 17: by Holly (new) - rated it 1 star

Holly Thank you.

message 18: by Tess (new)

Tess I agree wholeheartedly with Mae in message #4. That was the part in your review that got me to keep reading it until the end.

I have to point out that I haven't read the book (nor do I plan on reading it), but as I keep seeing the title everywhere around the Web, I got curious.

That said, I enjoyed your review very much. It's very well written. Thank you!

message 19: by Holly (new) - rated it 1 star

Holly That's what pisses me off wholeheartedly about most books. Unless, of course, that's what I'm reading it for, you know? There is a time and a place for romance novels. Heck, even bodice rippers!

Jeanne This is so exactly on!!! Great job in writing an extremely amusing review. I would like to read more of YOUR writing instead of Elizabeth Gilbert's.

message 21: by Holly (new) - rated it 1 star

Holly Ha ha! Thank you so much.

message 22: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa I thought I hated this book because I'm a crabby old person. I was afraid to admit it because of the lovefest over it- thanks for validating outcasts like me! It was torture unless you like self-indulgent drivel and whining.

Linda C I all almost through the India section. This book was been slow and painful reading. Glad to know that it's not just me! Many things are annoying me, but in the India section, maybe this is nitpicking, but that nickname "Groceries" just set my teeth on edge. Nicknames, while possibly humourous to the parties involved, so rarely work with a third party and this one, in particular, is ultra stupid.

message 24: by Holly (new) - rated it 1 star

Holly I loathe that nickname entirely! It's not shorter than "Liz", and it doesn't have a nice ring to it like a normal nickname would have. It's not even a nice word on its own! Fail!

waterbaby786 I have to thank you for saving a lot of time, energy and post rage! This review is simply what I needed to tip the scale of " to continue reading or not to continue that is the question" I was on Italy and decided the pace of Drabble, and seemingly bland journey and precise directions to get there made me think( for the second time mind you, cause a year ago I couldn't get past the first 5 pages....of course I was in Twilight phase! Anything was crap back then) is this worth it! But finally I have closure! I'm not gonna do it. A million thanks

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

Holly Life is too short to read drivel that doesn't redeem itself!

Carolyn Spot on review. Glad to see that a young person like you hated it. I am old, and thank god that none of my younger friends have the "me me me:" attitudes this character does.

message 28: by Holly (new)

Holly Bardoe Whew! I tried to read the book when it was first out years ago, and I couldn't get past p. 10---thankfully I got it from the library and didn't buy it. I recently returned from visiting Nicaragua, visiting the 4 boys I sponsor there. Seeing the poverty so widespread there had ME bawling on a bathroom floor in a hotel room. Hey, Liz, how about going THERE for a week or 2? Double-dog dare ya.

Alyce Rocco I thought, perhaps this book was not for me because I am too old. I had to reach back in personal memory to muster up empathy or understanding of Liz's depression. Never had a love like David, so hard to relate to her grief.

I thought as I read: maybe if she disclosed the details of what made the marriage so horrid, I could drum up some sympathy for her.

Some of the book interested me; yet had to remind self it is a memoir and memoirs are often boring.

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