One woman’s search for everything
A writer’s honest and humble memoir of her travels to Italy, India and Indonesia as she sets out to find pleasure, spirituality and balance…
Divided into three sections, totalling 108 short chapters (for some meaningful reason which I’ve forgotten since reading about it), this non-fiction read starts at the beginning of Gilbert’s thirties, a time in her life when, despite being a well-educated, ambitious professional, with a husband and home, everything seemed to be unravelling around her. Going through a painful divorce, the division of her assets and a tangled romance with an on-again-off-again boyfriend, Liz Gilbert makes the radical decision to shelve real life for a year and go travelling in pursuit of food, faith and freedom. Eat, Pray, Love chronicles her discovery from Rome – where she discovers the true pleasure of the Italian language and cuisine, to an ashram in India – where she finds a deeper faith and happiness through her guru, to Bali – where she studies the art of healing and balance from an exquisite medicine man.
This memoir is frank, funny and full of flavour (literally; she’s always mentioning food), with one key message: life is for living, you just need to start.
Admittedly, there were parts that I really loved about the book, such as Gilbert’s ability to make unlikely friends wherever she went; with Swedish Sofie in Rome, Richard, the cowboy from Texas in India, and Wayan, the crazy healer in Bali. I also enjoyed reminiscing about the best parts of living in Rome (which I did 2 years ago), like putting on crazy amounts of weight from drowning in hundreds of pizzas. Case in point:
The first meal I ate in Rome was nothing much. Just some homemade pasta (spaghetti carbonara) with a side order of sautéed spinach and garlic. […] Also, I had one artichoke, just to try it; the Romans are awfully proud of their artichokes. Then there was a pop-surprise bonus side order brought over by the waitress for free – a serving of fried zucchini blossoms with a soft dab of cheese in the middle […]. After the spaghetti, I tried the veal. Oh, and also I drank a bottle of house red, just for me. And ate some warm read, with olive oil and salt. Tiramisu for dessert.
That said, it felt oh so predictable pretty much 100% of the time. There was something that was just too neatly tied up by the end; the book starts with Gilbert’s divorce and ends with her finding romance like never before. Granted, it is an account of true events and she couldn’t have predicted that this would happen when she set out to write the book, but I ended up feeling as though a book that aimed to be about self-discovery became one about the girl finding the boy once again, which undermined the whole point of it. She was also basically paid to go on this journey in order to write the book, which feels a little trite to me, and made her seem even more like the embodiment of the ever-powerful American.
Overall, I think that if you don’t take yourself or the book too seriously, then it’s not a bad read, perhaps for a holiday on the beach – somewhere where you’re not too embarrassed to be reading it. However, one thing that this book isn’t: a highbrow literary sensation.
Star rating: ***