Christina's Reviews > Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
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's review
Sep 09, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: 2008, biography, non-fiction
Recommended to Christina by: Oprah!
Read in November, 2008 , read count: 1

I was actually going to give this book three stars but after thinking a bit about it after finishing it, I decided that it should only have two because the author really bugs me.
The thing is, this book is about a journey towards self-discovery and the author wants to examine three things: pleasure, devotion and balance - and I really don't think she does that.
After a divorce and an un-succesful relationsship, she decides to travel for a year alone. She starts out in Rome, Italy, where she wants to investigate pleasure - by eating. That's it! She doesn't challenge herself by visiting museums or the opera or anything to put her out of her comfort zone - all she does in Rome is eat and try to learn the language. Basically she's just on holiday combined with a language school. Not much self -discovery there - we all know the Italians make the best pasta!
Then she goes on to India and lives in a Ashram and meditates and practices yoga - to investigate devotion. I really liked this part - it was so interesting to hear about this way of life and how you can just devote yourself completely to this and I found it really inspirering and truly interesting.
But then she goes on to Bali - in the beginning it's presented like she's going there to study with a medicine man but in reality she ends up just having nice chats with him, learn a bit about meditation but basically, this book is about a local woman she becomes friends with - and sex! This part should be about balance but come on - how much balance do you have, when you have so much sex that it makes you sick?!
It's like she never takes a step back and look at herself and think about the whole journey with a critical mind. The journey was paid for because she got a contract to write a book about it and it feels like she just have to push her journey into this rather rigid scheme, she's decided - three parts, each part consists of 36 chapters, and each part is presented as a part of her self-discovery where it for me feels like only the India part is truly about self-discovery, the other two parts are just holidays.
She presents herself as a woman who gets so consumed by the man she's in a relationship with that she begins to talk like him, have his opinions etc and that's one of the thing she wants to work on on this journey - but when she ends up in Bali, she starts to fall in love with a man but rejects him one evening and is soooo proud of herself because she chose herself and didn't have sex with him - and then the next day he tells her to get into his bed, and she does... - and then it's like she forgets everything she learned so far.
So the India part was the only part that worked for me and I reallly like that part - but then again, she talks about books she has read etc but don't really give any suggestions for further reading or anything so the reader could get some ideas where to start one's own journey towards insight. In fact, she doesn't even tell her guru's name or the name of the Ashram...
I grant that this maybe was a case of too high expectations - I've heard so much about this book, everybody is reading it and it has been on my shelf for a while now and I've been looking forward to reading it. Suffice to say, it didn't meet these expectations and the two stars are for the India part, for the humour and self irony that does appear from time to time (just not enough) and for the parts about culture and customs in Bali - but the Italien part and the rest of the Bali part just draws it so much down that two stars is all I can give...
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Reading Progress

11/12/2008 page 13
2.06% "Now let's see what all the fuzz is about."
11/12/2008 page 54
8.56% "Not feeling the love all that much right now..."
11/13/2008 page 124
19.65% "In Italy - and the author still kind of bugs me"
11/13/2008 page 200
31.7% "I admit, some humourous writing from time to time ..."
11/14/2008 page 272
43.11% "In India in an Ashram - so much more interesting than reading about her eating binge in Italy"
11/14/2008 page 407
64.5% "Just finished the India part and started on Bali. Liked reading about meditation and yoga - actually would like to try it myself..."
11/15/2008 page 509
80.67% "Interesting to read about Balinesian customs and myths - like the newborn baby's four spirit brothers" 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Henrik (new)

Henrik That's a very well thoughtout review, Christina.

Now, I haven't read the book myself, but your reasons for likes/dislikes sound like clear-cut elements. Personally, I'd say "She gets sick from sex? That's balance???", so I hear ya, all right. (Of course, I can also imagine that maybe it's part of that "inner journey" she's on, that she has to go through certain phases etc. before reaching what she's looking for.)

That said, I still might give this book a chance one day... I'd love to recapture the magic of Bali, even if in a bad work of fiction;-)

Christina Since you have just recently been to Bali, I think you would find the Bali part interesting for that reason. I liked the part about the culture too.
But the main problem is that it doesn't seem like she 'evolves' that much - she learns something in India but then promptly forgets it when she gets to Bali (a bit harsh, I know, but it bugged me!) ;-)

Stephanie "Jedigal" I just wanted to say about balance -
I always think of it not as a state of being but as an action. I've heard physical therapists talk about how during any portion of a walking stride, we are inherently off balance, but b/c of the way we continue moving, we are balancING.

I think maybe that is reflected in the book in that she finds that she gets "off balance", but then that is a signal and she can "move" in a different way. And in the Italy and India parts of the book, it seems like she was adding different options to her repertoire, different directions she can move in/towards when she feels "off-balance".

Does this make sense to anyone else?

Christina I understand what you say and i definitely agree with you that she adds something to her repertoire in India - it just feels like she doesn't really try in Italy ... to me at least!

Susan Mangigian I really enjoyed the eating in Italy and the sex in Bali. I found the meditation part in India a little trying. I guess we were reading it for different reasons.

Christina Lol Susan - yeah, I guess we were :-)
But as I said, it could be the expectations that ruined my reading the book...

message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan Thanks for the great review Christina. I'd taken this book off my to-read list a while back, and your review does not change my mind about doing that. It's disappointing because the premise is so interesting.

Christina Lisa, with all the books you have on your to-read list, I think that's a very smart decision!!! I think there are lots of better books waiting to be read...

message 9: by Tricia (last edited Jun 14, 2009 10:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tricia 1)I think that discovering the simple pleasure of eating good food is symbolic of learning to live in the moment. It isn't about food per say. She also mentions that she normally eats healthy and exercises, which is symbolic of our culture and how the average person is ALWAYS on a "diet" and forgets the pleasure that comes from enjoying food.2) This is a well educated, successful woman. She isn't searching for intellectual stimulation. She already has it in her job, social circles, and education. She is searching for what is missing in HER life. 3) I lived abroad while learning a language. I beg to differ that it isn't self discovery. I think that most people that lived abroad will tell you that they saw themselves and the world differently afterwards. 4) I am amazed at all the jealousy over this women's social economic status and freedom to what she wants. She worked hard for her money. Which is it, is she a lazy, unambitious person that doesn't go to museums or a successful woman with money to do what she wants? It seems like either way, people are going to put her down. 5) Haven't you ever fallen in love? Haven't you ever not wanted to get physically involved with someone and changed your mind. My, my it sounds like the fact that Elizabeth found happiness and love really erks some people. Interesting. In conclusion, as I read the reviews, I think "Wow, people really missed the point of the book. I don't believe that they understood it." I think that the very point that Elizabeth is making-people see pleasure, joy, and living in the moment as a sin-is proven by several of these post. People are down right mad and angry that the woman has money and did what she wanted. There are comments about how she should be serving someone else. Well, if you were paying any attention, her life was spent serving others because of the way that she was raised, and her journey is about learning to put herself first. Elizabeth isn't a selfish person. Do you really think a selfish woman would go to the trouble to give ALL her b-day money to a woman that she hardly knows so that she could buy a home? I think that the idea that we should serve others our entire life and be a mother, worker, and not have pleasure in our life reflects modern culture, which is the very thing that she is trying to escape.

Christina Hey Tricia. First of all, I appreciate you taking the time to commenting. Secondly, it's been a while since I read this book and I must admit that it hasn't left a lasting impression on me so if I sound vague in the following, it's because of that. But I feel your comment deserve a comment back and so I will try to explain why I felt the way about the book.
I still feel that it is limiting to only look for pleasure in food. Especially in a city as Rome which has so much more to offer. True, the culture we live in has a strained relationship to food but I still feel that food and pleasure are often believed to go together and that it could be more rewarding to find pleasure in more places than one.
I give you that she is searching for what's missing in her life - but I feel the book is being presented as being able to give others too an insight in the good life and I didn't feel it did that.
My comment about her not obtaining much self-discovery by being in Italy, learning the language and eating pasta may have been a bit harsh - but I still feel she couldn't have gotten more out of it.
I don't believe I expressed any jealousy towards her being able to take the journey. I commented on the journey being paid for by a book deal and in this case where it's a book about self-discovery, I feel it's a valid point that she got paid to do the journey.
Of course you can change your mind about having sex with someone - what irked me was that she seemed to forget everything she had tried to learn and achieve on her journey and gave it up for a man so she in some ways seemed to end up where she began - and I certainly don't think the point of her book was that change is impossible. I think she really wanted to show that you can change your life for the better and of course she did change in some ways, my problem was just that she was so proud of herself for not sleeping with him one night and next day she just jumped into his bed so fast...
Nowhere in my review do I say she's selfish. Or - again - that I am angry at her for having money to take the journey. And I actually did write some positive things about the book.
Even though I am a - new - mother, I certainly don't believe that all there is in a woman's life is work and motherhood. Anybody who know me would confirm this and I don't believe I wrote anything in my review that could come across as I meant that.
Maybe I did miss the point of the book - but I'm not the only one and maybe this book isn't for everyone. Probably so - no books are. Of course we should have joy and pleasure - and yes, we do often forget to enjoy the small things, to be in the moment. But for me, this book did not teach me any of these things.
So Tricia, in conclusion, I don't agree with you and I think that maybe you have taken it a bit out on me for several of the bad reviews you've read on here. I'm certainly not so harsh as some of the reviews out there! And even though it's not my favourite book, I still feel it's refreshing to discuss it so thank you for disagreeing with me.

message 11: by Tricia (last edited Jun 15, 2009 08:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tricia Christina Stind wrote: "Hey Tricia. First of all, I appreciate you taking the time to commenting. Secondly, it's been a while since I read this book and I must admit that it hasn't left a lasting impression on me so if I ..."

Clarification, not all of my comments were directed at you, I just expressed some of my thoughts here. I was bewildered by the anger, hate, and jealousy directed at Elizabeth for having an opportunity and taking it. The bottom line is that the book isn't about food, language, or Italy. That is the surface stuff that tells her story. The book IS about a spiritual journey, not changing your life. It doesn't matter how you travel YOUR journey. As a matter of fact, I think that Elizabeth is encouraging you to take risk and find out what you want and need. It isn't a "how to book" nor is she taking the role as an expert or coach to get people where they need to be. She is simply telling her story, take it or leave it. If being a mom and working and giving to others are where your heart are at, then go for it. Besides, I know plenty of selfish mothers. The act of having kids doesn't make one unselfish. As a matter of fact, plenty of women have kids to catch a man in hopes of obtaining love, secure their financial future, and hope that the kid will love them. I would beg to differ that a woman learning how to love is more selfish then a woman trying to entrap people to give it to them by acts of manipulation. I don't know, having kids and going to work for material gain is pretty darn selfish. What about women that live their dreams vicariously though their kids. Isn't that selfish? I know that will upset a lot of people but it is just odd that we find it acceptable to have kids to get what we want. Yet a working woman that is successful and creates her own opportunity for herself and is actively giving to others is viewed as selfish. Um? Each journey is unique. It is much deeper then food, language, Italy. The HOW doesn't matter, the search does. Again, when one is happy and at peace with themselves, it is amazing what they can give to the world. I think that folks just missed the message. The very thing that she is trying to escape is the belief that she is worthless if she doesn't serve others at the sacrifice of her sanity and happiness, which is exactly what society teaches us.

Christina I agree totally that having kids do not make you a better person. In fact, I wish more people would really think about whether having kids is the right choice for them or if they just do it because you have to have kids. For most of my life, I didn't want kids but as I grew older, I started to want kids more and more and it turned out it was right for me to have a child. And in some ways it's always at least a bit selfish to have a child - there are plenty of children in need of adoption out there (although at least in this country it is rather hard to adopt if you can have children of your own).
You still haven't changed my mind about the book though. I know it's a spiritual journey - but spiritual journeys are still influenced by what you do. And the part of the journey that felt most spiritual to me was the part in India - and I liked that part. I just felt that parts of the rest - especially the Italy part - came across as a bit shallow. I'm not angry with Elizabeth Gilbert or hate her or anything - I don't know her. She seemed nice enough when I saw her on Oprah and that was part of why I wanted to read the book... The book just didn't impress me.

message 13: by Tricia (last edited Jun 15, 2009 08:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tricia One last comment, maybe the book didn't help you and others, nor would you expect ONE book to be the bible for everyone. However, at the end of the day, this book helped a lot of people along their journey. I would beg to differ that Elizabeth isn't giving to others. How many of us can say that we wrote a book that resonated with millions of people? So much that Julia Roberts is going to stare as your character in a movie. The book did speak to a lot of people. Yet, I can recognize that in a spiritually deprived culture such as ours, a lot of people can't relate to Elizabeth.

message 14: by Tricia (last edited Jun 15, 2009 08:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tricia BTW: I am not trying to change your mind. I am just expressing my thoughts here. Since I wanted to address some of your specific comments, I decided to share my thoughts here. I think the problem is that people are thinking about the book and spiritual journeys have little to do with intellect, other then one's ability to have awareness of themselves and the world.

message 15: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs I started to read it but it didn't hold my attention at all, so I got the parody Drink, Play, F@#k: One Man's Search for Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand which was quite funny.

I go to Bali quite often so I might try reading the book again now I know it contains a goodly amount about it.

Christina She spends a lot of time in Bali - but it isn't as much about Bali as it's about her ... If you read it to read about Bali, I think you'll be diasppointed!

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