Thursday, April 1, 2010

What I'm Reading

*Warning: this is a bit of a harsh book review. If you're smitten with the book, by all means - feel free to skip the following assessment.*

I just finished Eat, Pray, Love yesterday evening. I can't really recommend it. I know it has been super popular, but to me it's just not that good. Lots of memoirs are self-focused, but this one is unappealingly so. It's also emotionally-draining, a bit concocted and unbelievable, and definitely not relatable -- which is where my review might diverge from others.

Elizabeth finds herself at age 30 in an unhappy marriage. She doesn't note exactly how her marriage broke down-- she's just depressed, unfulfilled, and doesn't want to have babies in her nice house in the suburbs. Throughout the book she struggles with wanting forgiveness from her ex-husband whom she left. Isn't that something to consider before leaving your lifetime partner? Are you willing to move on knowing that someone may not be able to forgive you for the harm you caused or contributed to?

Anyway, she divorces her husband, goes through a bitter break-up with a lover and then travels for a year to Italy, India, and Indonesia. Elizabeth's account of eating pasta and learning Italian while living in Rome is just not that interesting. Her battle of being alone -- again, just not that interesting. She's not really happy until the end of her time in India where she soon departs to Indonesia.

As I read the book, I did not connect on any level with her spiritual journey and emotional healing process. However, she did seem to make a transition from being her own worst enemy to someone who was interested in guarding herself and making wise decisions. All the best to her for that accomplishment.

Throughout the book she made friends hither and thither, but -- unlike many authors of memoirs I read -- she's not someone I was really interested in being friends with.  I don't want to sit down with Elizabeth Gilbert over a cup of coffee and ask her to tell me all about her life.  Her insight and discoveries seemed to be lacking substance. Her experiences were somewhat unengaging.  Overall, maybe the appeal of the book is to a group who can relate to her dissatisfaction and search for happiness and emotional wholeness.

Have you read the book? If you liked it, do tell me why. I'm interested to hear your thoughts!

I just started Sarah's Key last night and had a hard time putting it down. The book intersects two stories: one of the hushed atrocity committed against the Jewish people in July of 1942 in Paris known as the "Rafle du Vel' d'Hiv'" and another of a modern, Parisian family earlier this decade and their conflict with history during the refurbishment of an apartment. About the intersection of the stories: I haven't quite arrived there yet but I'm ready for the arrival! Without even finishing the book, I can already recommend it. Definitely add it to your  'To Read' list! I've already learned so much about about how the Jewish people were treated by the French police during the German occupation. And to me - there's nothing better than well-researched fiction in the historic context. 

** Addendum: I've now fininished Sarah's Key and loved it! Definitely recommended!! **


Toria and Kyle said...

I read that book in January and felt exactly the same way about it. I couldn't relate to her at all and found her very whiny.

Jessica said...

I read Eat, Pray, Love a couple of years ago. It was ok. I think reading books about women who have that type of mindset on life influences me and other readers to be selfish. So I wasn't crazy about the book either.

Christine Z said...

I know I should form my own opinions - but life is just too short to read a bad book, if someone you trust has read and said "it's just not worth it". Thanks for the harsh review, I will get on with reading the books that come with a positive recommendation!

Trudy said...

Glad you shared this about Eat, Pray, Love. It was on my list, but don't think I'll waste my time! Too many other good books to go through!

Heather said...

Coming out of lurker-status here to say that I couldn't agree more. Read this on a flight to Seattle years ago when it came out. I am confounded by its success. Simply awful. Nevermind that her story is self-aggrandizing, mock-modest and rife with cliches, the writing itself is solidly mediocre. Further, I find it really disturbing that so many 20-30-something women are so enamored or Elizabeth Gilbert and her story. Are we really aspiring that model? Hope not.

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