Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love. What? Love, AGAIN??

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year or so (and you live in the US) you must have heard of Elizabeth Gilbert's Oprah-certified memoir Eat, Pray, Love. You had to have seen that attractive cover peering out at you from the bestseller shelves at Barnes and Noble. Or Borders. Or Target. Anyhow, this is the book I wasn't planning on reading, too much hype and all that. But as these things tend to go, it was chosen for this months book club selection and so here we are.

For those who have just climbed out from under a rock, a short synopsis: unhappily married Gilbert falls apart on bathroom floor, proceeds to file for divorce and begins another unhealthy relationship with an attractive man. Said relationship is not working out so Gilbert receives large book advance to travel and find herself and God. Oh, and a new man. There's that.

Does it sound as though I disliked this book? I did in parts, but not altogether. I was happily surprised to find this book fairly readable and quite humorous. Gilbert is a good writer with a conversational style that drew me in and I enjoyed the first section of the book which details Gilbert's relationship woes and her travels in Italy. Then we moved on to India. Hmmm. Gilbert spends 4 months essentially meditating in an Ashram. She notices the native women hauling rocks on the side of the road and thinks (and I paraphrase here) 'Huh. That must be a hard life.' And continues to meditate. It just all felt so out of touch and reinforced the thoughts going through my mind about how self-absorbed the author is. At one point Gilbert decides she's been talking too much, so she's going to be "The Quiet Girl." And everyone is going to look at this mysterious girl and think "Who is that Quiet Girl?" All I can think is that you're spending a little too much time thinking about yourself and how you can manipulate how other people see you. I'm thinking if I wanted to improve myself and my 'karma' in the world my time would be better spent doing some volunteer work in India. Just an idea. It was during this portion of the book that my eardrum ruptured. I had to take a few weeks away from it. Somehow being half deaf, unable to go out in public or read to my daughter due to ear pain decreased my tolerance.

In the third and final section of EPL Gilbert travels to Bali. She is brave, not having any official plans, and heads off to visit a medicine man she met several years earlier. They spend time together talking and learning from one another. Gilbert makes a life for herself, taking a house and getting to know people. She meets a man and begins a friendship with him. It is apparent that he wants more, but Gilbert thinks she is not ready....but then she is. And the cycle is completed. Apparently Gilbert's next book is about her marriage to this man.

I've read that in order to like or even love this book one has to really like Gilbert and her personality. I just didn't identify with her in any way. Most people I know are too busy working, taking care of family and just life to spend so much time thinking about themselves. I didn't like the overly cutesy way she had of describing herself - again I paraphrase - I'm such a cute blond - I've never been without a man - I make friends so easily. Or some of the 'clever' jokes she made - at the beginning of chapter 74 Gilbert makes a comment about landing in the middle of the Sudan with no idea what to do next. Considering the situation in Darfur I felt this was a poorly timed remark.

I just don't 'get' all the hype about this book. I truly don't understand why so many people have been drawn to this book, and what's more, why they come away feeling it's changed their life or is the best book they've ever read. I'm hoping someone in my book club meeting tomorrow night loved it and can explain this to me.

I'm curious to know - did you read this and how did you feel about it? And in particular - if you are not from the US, is this a popular book where you live? Just wondering.

21 comments:

raych said...

It's certainly all the rage up here in Canada (besides hockey and beer, we steal all our trends from you guys). My sister-in-law received TWO copies for Christmas. I plan on asking her if I can borrow one, because it's easier to say 'I hated it' than 'I know I'll hate it.' And I will. All the things I read about it, both good and bad, just reinforce how much I'm going to hate it.

Kay said...

I have it here and I'm really wavering as to whether I want to read it. I thought I might suggest that the afternoon book group read it next year. We'll see. Let us know what your group said. I'm very much on the fence about this.

Nan - said...

Oh, I loved your write-up, Tara. Have you read Les' over at:
http://lesleysbooknook.blogspot.com/
2008/03/eat-pray-love.html

I told her I had heard EG on Canadian Radio and rather liked her, but my goodness, after reading both your reviews, I think I'll not bother with this one.

Nan - said...

Oh, and I am definitely one who lives under that proverbial rock. Until hearing her on CBC, I hadn't heard of the book. I read such different stuff from the main world. :<)

Chris said...

I've wondered about this book (I second what Raych said. In between the NHL playoffs, people are reading this book). I read Oprah raving about it and thought, "Oh here we go. A touchy feely all men are bad and are keeping me from knowing my true self book."

LisaMM said...

Hi Tara.. I SOOOOOO agree with everything you said (which, by the way, you managed to say much better than I did!!) I couldn't stand her "I'm so cute and blond and friendly" stuff constantly, either!

LisaMM said...

Hi Tara.. I SOOOOOO agree with everything you said (which, by the way, you managed to say much better than I did!!) I couldn't stand her "I'm so cute and blond and friendly" stuff constantly, either!

Maw Books said...

I totally agree with LisaMM when she says "I SOOOOOO agree with everything you said." Perfect review, you said everything that I think about this book! I've reviewed this one as well, but I like yours so much better.

BooksPlease said...

I'm still reading this book - in Bali at the moment. I agree with you and the others. I picked the book up from the library because ages ago I read a good review on someone's blog (can't remember who). I don't know if it's popular here but I couldn't renew it as someone else has reserved it so maybe it is.

When I read your description that's just how I feel about her - she is so self-absorbed and as someone else commented on my blog when I wrote a bit about the book, "narcissistic".

Bybee said...

I bought this book because it's everywhere over here and I love that cover, sad to say. I've got it down for my "In Their Shoes" challenge, but I hesitate to read it because although "The Last American Man" Gilbert's previous book was one I enjoyed A LOT, she couldn't keep herself out of it, although she wasn't the focus at all. So I can imagine how a book all about her would be. Maybe book group will choose it then I'll have to read it. Till then...

Lazy cow said...

It's popular in Australia too. I tried to read it but felt the same as you - she's just so laughably self-absorbed and I hated her 'voice'. Am seriously hoping no one in my bookgroup chooses this!

Danielle said...

I read it when it came out in hardcover-I saw it in the library and loved the cover! I liked parts of the book--mostly the Italy section, but I think I was expecting something different, so I can understand your comments. I didn't realize she married that guy--how interesting. I sort of felt she revealed a little too much of her personal relationship with him in the book--some of the intimate details were a little more than I wanted to know. I never thought I was a prude, but maybe I am more so than I thought. I'm interested in seeing the movie (maybe I'll like it better?), but I think I'll pass on her next book. I did, however really like her earlier novel, Stern Men.

Tara said...

Raych, I was figuring it would be - popular in Canada, that is. Thanks for letting me know. I thought I would hate it and wouldn't be able to read it so I'm glad I finished it so that I can intelligently discuss it!

Kay, I think the best thing about my reading it will be discussing it - at least I hope. It provokes strong feelings which always makes for good discussion.

Nan, thank you. I read Leslie's review and appreciate the link. Good for you - not reading mainstream stuff that is. Generally, if it appeals to the masses I figure it's not for me.

Chris, I haven't seen the Oprah shows for myself but it sounded like a big EPL lovefest. I even found a blog where you can talk about how much you loved EPL.

LisaMM, you are too kind! I enjoyed your posts about EPL so much and all the 'conversation' that resulted.

Maw Books, I'm really flattered. I read your review too, and liked it so much!

Books Please, I was especially wondering if this was popular over there, I guess if there are library holds it must be. Narcissistic is the perfect word, I'd say.

Bybee, just in English or Korean also??? Yeah, someone did a great job with that cover. I don't know that I'd read her work again...

Lazy Cow, that is good to know. I know what you mean - this was voted in as the best of three not-so-great options.

Danielle, isn't the cover great? I hope whoever designed it gets a cut b/c I think that's what draws people initially to this book. I totally agree with you about her revealing too much - too much information!

julochka said...

hi tara--just to start with an answer to your question..i'm from the US, but have been living outside it for 10 years.

i'll admit i liked eat, pray, love (except for the india bit). but the timing for me was right--it spoke to me and felt healing because i had just "broken up" with my job, so a desire to go on a journey back to myself was there. but if it hadn't been for that, i think it would have annoyed me a bit with its navel gazing and well, let's call it whining.

i read a hilarious review of it here: http://www.worldhum.com/books/item/one_mans_odyssey_into_eat_pray_love_20080211/

i hope that pastes in correctly. if not, go to worldhum and look for rolf potts. it's worth it because he's really quite funny--referring to the book as women's travel adventure porn, which i think is quite an apt description.

hope that will help you with your book club discussion....

julochka said...

forgot to say if it's popular...i live in denmark and travel quite a lot and see it in airport bookshops all over scandinavia and the world...

Cath said...

Must be living under a rock here in England because I have truly never heard of this book. And, by the sound of it, don't need to.

Iliana said...

When I first heard about it, I thought this is my type of book, but the more everyone started raving about it the less interested I became in it. I think I'll eventually get to it but am not in a rush - maybe I'll enjoy it more once the hoopla has died down.

melanie said...

yep. i agree with you totally. too much navel gazing. although witty, still introspection to the 10th degree. should be a good book club discussion. i attempted to tackle it with the online book club and the answers are still posted. from what i can tell it resonates more with the unmarried no children set. not a judgement just an observation.

Bybee said...

Bookstore today...dang, that book is EVERYWHERE & you can get the mass market copy or the nice trade paperback copy. Now that its popularity is increasing so wildly, I'm not sure I want to read it at all!
I haven't seen it out in Korean yet, but that's only a matter of time...

Tara said...

Julochka, all around the world huh? That is exactly what I wanted to know! Thanks for answering. I'm going to check out that review - thanks for that, too.

Cath, I am surprised! But I know what you mean.

Iliana, I do that too- read a book eventually when everyone else is done with it. Good idea!

Melanie, Was a good discussion and will talk more about that later. I can totally see why the no kids set would identify more. Will have to look at the answers you've gotten to your questions.

Bybee, wow - we don't have mass market copies here. I'm always so fascinated by how publishing differs around the world. I'll bet it is only a matter of time..

Elaine said...

Have just been sent this by the publishers, not sure I would have read it otherwise, so was pleased to find your post. Will read and report back!