Book Reviews

Review of Eat, Pray, Love (the book)

I recently finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and have to say I was disappointed. Although I rarely prefer the screen adaption over the book, in this case I did. I found the film simply put, visually mesmorizing (which is no surprise since it was shot in probably three of the most unique and beautiful places on the planet, RomeIndia, and Bali). Sadly on a travel note, I have only been to the first place. Yes I know, woe is me…

While I usually love travel narratives, Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone by Mary Morris and Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman being two of my favorite books I’ve ever read, I found parts of Eat, Pray, Love to be slow and uncaptivating. Perhaps it is my fault for wanting it to be more of a travel narrative when in many instances it seems more a work of non-fiction. Although I greatly enjoyed the Italy section, mentally nodding in agreement with Gilbert when she raves about the decadence of Italy’s gelato, the pizzas in which upon first taste make it seem as if you have been transported to a foodie heaven, the India section to me was boring. Attribute it to the fact that I do not practice yoga, have a guru who I pray to, or an Ashram I aspire to make a pilgrimage to one day. That is just not who I am.  Maybe this is where the norm of movie studios condensing a 352 page book into a couple of hours of screen time is a good thing. I didn’t mind nor find boring when Julia Roberts spoke of her guru or practiced meditating in the temple simply because India was there in the background through its culture, its people, and its unique and glorious vistas. Personally I felt that Gilbert did not do a good job of bringing India to life for me, the reader, which is very important in travel writing. I found the India section to be more of a self-help book, one in which focused entirely too much on Gilbert finding herself, rather than discovering the beauty of the country she was in. 

As I desperately hope to travel to India at some point in my lifetime to see the Taj Mahal, the cities of Mumbai and Delhi for starters, I was most disappointed when Gilbert decides to change her plans and instead of traveling throughout the country, she extends her studies at the Ashram. As Gilbert writes “how she would be devastated to miss the Ganges, the great Rajasthani desert, the Himalayas, the old tea plantations,” I was thinking to myself, so would I!  I felt that since I made it through what I considered to be the dry portion of the book, I would at least be rewarded with descriptive texts of India’s majestic sites and cultural facets. Things however were looking  down again when the story stayed rooted within the walls of the Ashram for the Indian portion of the book.

Thankfully the story returned to more engrossing reading when Gilbert travels to Bali and is simply there for no other reason than to rest, relax, and reflect on the past year (and what better place to do this than a gorgeous island in the Indian Ocean). I’ve never been but I could just imagine the rice paddies, the brightness of colors found at Hindu ceremonies she attends, and the vibrant greenery that was all around. 

I didn’t not like the book, but as a travel narrative I found it lacking. So in closing, this is one time in which I’ll advocate seeing the film over reading the book, especially if you’re interested on “taking a trip” from the comfort of your own home. 

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