I’ve considered reading this book for years now, but never really had any motivation to do so. It seemed kind of new agey, not quite something I’d enjoy. But then I saw the preview for the movie and the scenery looked so pretty that I decided to try an audio version of the book. I figured, why not? All three of those countries, especially Indonesia, are ones I’m interested in.
There seems to be a fairly universal book blogger hatred towards Eat, Pray, Love, from what I can tell. For myself, the book wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t great, either, but it didn’t bother me as it seems to bother so many others. It was easy to listen to and I wasn’t offended by Gilbert’s journey or the way she went about trying to find herself. Her depression didn’t bother me, and I didn’t think she should just “stop whining” because she has so many wonderful things (something I’ve heard several people say, which bothers me because having dealt with depression myself, I know it doesn’t matter how many good things you have. Good things don’t fight depression). I didn’t mind that she got all semi-spiritual, because I didn’t see this book as a how-to guide for my own journey. I saw it as one woman’s personal journey, and I figure hey, she’s allowed to experience these things however she wishes to experience them.
So having got that out of the way, I’ll tell you what did bother me about this book – it was far too easy to see the hand of the writer in it. Of course, in a memoir, the narrator and the writer are obviously the same person, but the narrative voice and the writer’s hand are two different things. The narrator simply tells her story. The writer makes that story presentable to an audience, and in this case, the writer tried way too hard. It was all these little things. For instance, if Gilbert made a big deal about a word or phrase, you could bet everything you owned that somewhere, full circle, we would come back to that word or phrase and the coming back to it was meant to be “poignant.” That was very cheesy. There were lots of little tricks in there that were eye-rollingly groan-worthy.
But! Beyond those little tricks, I actually enjoyed listening to Gilbert’s story. She didn’t take the same path I would have taken, but I felt like she was sincere in the way she traveled. That sincerity is, to me, the most important thing in a memoir, and so I appreciated it and respected Gilbert for that. I didn’t always agree with her (Venice is NOT sombre!), but I could respect her opinion. I did think some of her ideas were a little silly, but she didn’t try to force them on me, so I could just agree to disagree with her.
Oddly, the whole time I was listening, I kept thinking how much better this book would have worked as fiction rather than memoir. Of course I know that it’s nonfiction and shouldn’t be treated like fiction, but I couldn’t help thinking how much better it would have flowed with less random interlude stories and more story arc. Ironically, though, the movie version was far more fictional, and I didn’t like it at all! They changed a lot and added a bunch of pointless conflict to increase melodrama and make it more cinematic. It was pretty, but the story was awful. Jason and I both watched it and both hated it. Funny, considering that a preview for the movie is what got me to read the book in the first place…
Performance: This audiobook was read by the author. It was, as per usual, read way too slowly, so it was perfect double-speed material. I liked the reading mostly, but was bothered when Gilbert would imitate the accents of the people she met. I tend to cringe when I hear people imitate accents in general, though, so maybe that’s just a pet peeve of mine.