After resisting all the hype surrounding this book for a long time, I finally gave in and purchased it to see what all the fuss was about. Well after reading it to be honest I still don't know why this book became so huge. Maybe it never would have without Oprah?!
Don't get me wrong, ultimately I am pleased I read it and I can look back and say it was an interesting read. But it didn't grab me at all until about halfway through 'Book 2' - Pray.
To be honest I almost gave up in 'Book 1' - Eat. Having spent time in Rome and Italy twice myself, despite her pronounced love for the country, Elizabeth totally failed to get Italy down on paper in any kind of inspirational way. I share her passion for Italy, if I could live anywhere in the world it would be there. So this first part was a huge disappointment to me. I am no poet but even I could probably produce pages of prolific prose on this wondrous country, it's great beauty, history, charm and it's wonderfully expressive and beautiful citizens. Italy IS the epitomy of passion and her whole phase in Italy was just passionless! This did not bode well for the rest of the book.
But I persevered into 'Book 2' - Pray. This again started off pretty inauspiciously for me, but I do have an interest in the benefits of Meditation on the mind and body and so gradually Elizabeth started to pull me in. By halfway through her time in the Ashram I was finally hooked and I found the rest of her experiences there educational and inspirational enough to make me want to give meditation another go. I did however still feel that at times her writing was pretty self-indulgent and occasionally I checked how many pages I had to the end of this book.
Finally I made it into 'Book 3' - Love, and her time on the island of Bali. This was a more interesting period in her journey and there was more interaction with interesting actual characters who added to her tale. This was by far the easiest book of the three for me and the one that ultimately redeemed this books reputation, somewhat.
So would I recommend it? Only if you are at a point where there are aspects of your life you are deeply unhappy or unsettled with. This book might just give you the courage to get out of your rut and take matters into your own hands to improve your life. But it might also depress you further as most of us can't just upsticks like Elizabeth!
If like me you have already reached the right place for your own personal good 'karma' then you might also struggle to get through it. It has taken me nearly a month to read this book and I often had to make myself continue.
As to why it was so successful? I think there are two reasons; the first is there are a huge amount of women out there who are very unhappy with their lives and searching for something better. This makes me very sad for them, and I also doubt they found all their answers in this book.
The second reason is it's always great to read about someone doing something dramatic with their life, that you wish you had the guts or financial means to do yourself. It's like they are fulfilling our dreams for us and sharing their own experiences for our benefit.
This is undoubtedly what Elizabeth Gilbert set out to do and I know many love this book and thank her for it. But how realistic or possible is it for most of us to leave our lives and recharge in Italy for 3 months, spend 4 months in an Indian Ashram and then 3 months relaxing on Bali, whilst falling for the perfect man!? No big surprise Oprah loved it, after all she's in the 1% who could realistically do what Elizabeth did!
Sorry, call me a cynic, but that's just not achievable for 99% of this books readers. I just wonder if it left them with even more dis-satisfaction and yearning for a change in their own life, that may never be more than a dream for most of them.
I guess I have strong feelings on this book because at 39 I packed up my very established old life and took a huge leap of faith in love. So I feel I am perhaps better positioned than many readers to view it with open eyes and a reality that perfection is rarely possible anywhere! Yes I did what many people will never do, I was one of the few who don't just settle for what they have but go for what they want in life.
Yes my life is alot better, happier, enriching, peaceful and rewarding but it's not perfect and that's - just life!
So interesting read but unlikely to be life changing for many readers.