Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Posted on May 13, 2010


– about Italy, India and Bali


The first time I heard about Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ was as I was scanning the top sellers section of my favourite online bookstore. Purely because it was at the top for a few weeks and remained within the highest ranks during the following ones, and also because I was really bored and needed something to read, I bought it.

Then one day I was in my staffroom reading it and one of the other teachers exclaimed that she was reading the very same one in German.
‘I received it as a Birthday gift’, she told me. ‘At first I thought, why should I read the story of this woman? I don’t know her, but then I kind of got into it.’

‘I am in the India chapter.’ I answered, not as yet sure whether to give the book my thumbs up.

‘Aaahh. The India section’, she echoed.
A few days later I ended up discussing the book with a German student.

‘There is such hype about it’, she said almost disdainfully. ‘And now it’s in the news because while the movie adaptation was being filmed in a location in Bali, the locals protested because it was a sacred site.’

The book was first published in 2006 and still tops the best selling charts. In a nutshell, it’s the travelogue of a woman who, after going through a painful divorce, comes up with the idea of travelling to Italy (to indulge in the pleasure of eating), to India (to mediate) and to Bali (to, as it turns out, fall in love) and to write a book about it. In fact, the whole journey is made possible by her editor who pays her an advance on the finished book.

There are moments in the book which are so brilliant that they make you gasp, as is the introductory page to the chapter on India:


‘When I was growing up, my family kept chickens. We always had about a dozen of them at any given time and whenever one died off […] my father would replace the lost hen. He’d drive to a nearby poultry farm and return with a new chicken in a sack. The thing is, you must be very careful when introducing a new chicken to the general flock. You can’t just toss it in there with the old chickens, or they will see it as an invader. What you must do instead is to slip the new bird into the chicken coop in the middle of the night while the others are asleep. Place her on a roost beside the flock and tiptoe away. In the morning, when the chickens wake up, they don’t notice the newcomer, thinking only, “She must have been here all the time since I didn’t see her arrive.” The clincher of it is, awaking within this flock, the newcomer herself doesn’t even remember that she’s a new comer, thinking only, ‘I must have been here the whole time…”

This is exactly how I arrive in India. […]

Everyone is seated in meditation, roosted there, you might say, and I slip in beside them, the new bird in the flock, completely unnoticed. […]

I don’t know if I fall asleep or if I drop into some kind of spell or even home much time passes. But when the sun finally comes up that morning in India and everyone opens their eyes and looks around, Italy feels ten thousand miles away from me now, and it is as if I have been here in this flock forever.’

Then there are moments when it really feels as if she is just blurting out what she did and saw as one would on a postcard to a friend. Throughout the book, these two styles intermingle, with one being more prominent at times than the other. It is perhaps for this reason that while I could not put it down and read it in a week, at the end I could not say that I had fallen in love with the entire book, but just with certain parts and certain brilliantly written passages and described places.

So I do in the end recommend reading it for a number of reasons; to see what all the hype is about, for these precious points during the story and for the general feel-good vibe it leaves behind when you put it down.

Find Eat Pray Love and many more recommendations in my book shop.

Travel Book Review by Den Den @