Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: the cliché, the sensation, the purported tale of white privilege. This Christmas, I picked it up. What could be more intriguing than a book loved and widely hated in equal measure?
This book is the memoir of freshly divorced 34-year-old Elizabeth Gilbert who sets out on a year of travel to rediscover herself and escape depression. Now, I’ve watched the movie starring Julia Roberts and was not blown away by the experience. You would hope that this would be an empowering story of a search for self-love and independence, but no – in reality it is the age-old story of a woman looking for … a man. It is wildly frustrating.
Nonetheless, I do think that the book does a little better than the movie. Gilbert’s writing is humorous and genuinely beautiful at times (“I want God to play in my bloodstream the way sunlight amuses itself on the water”). There are also pages and pages (and more endless pages) not directly devoted to men in the book – i.e. an entire section dedicated to her journey of mindfulness and self-compassion in India, which includes her literally talking to God (yes, really).
However, enlightening as all that (sort of) is, Gilbert’s work at base feels egotistic. Pre-paid to write a book about self-discovery, she waltzes from country to country making sure to clarify to us how easily she makes friends and how beautiful and important everyone tells her she is. The whole thing is perturbingly proud of itself. Nevertheless, the honesty and the humor kept me reading. The book makes you laugh and reads like a private diary, and this (admittedly brave) intimacy clearly captures something that a great deal of people can relate to. In that, I think it is noteworthy.
Do give it a read and see if you want to burn it at the end.
– Natasha Matsaert
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