I don’t know many people who liked the book. Or admit to having liked it. The main criticism against the book has been the tone of the writer – described variously as whiny, negative and complaining. Elizabeth Gilbert, a writer goes through an acrimonious divorce and then finds herself in deep depression, struggling to find her bearings in life. She finds herself bawling on the bathroom floor and having conversations with a god whom she does not fully believe in.
By this point, most readers have rolled their eyes and wondered what the fuss is all about. It is worse since it comes from a person from a privileged life – white woman, in good health (seemingly), financially independent, moderately successful – so what reasons does she have to complain?
I think it takes huge courage (not to mention a huge book advance, sniggers the sceptic in me) to open up one’s deepest and darkest emotions this way in a book – knowing that one is opening up to ridicule and criticism. But Gilbert does it, and with a charm that overshadows everything else.
In the wake of this depression, she decides to travel for a year to three countries – seeking different things from each. In Italy, she learns the language and eats her way out of depression. In India, she seeks spiritual solace in an ashram and then heads to Indonesia to spend time with the traditional medicine man she has met earlier. And there, she finally finds love.
The book is a wonderful narrative on Gilbert finding her way into the light – and a lovely look at how travel can be a healing, learning, enriching experience.
The movie, with Julia Roberts playing Elizabeth Gilbert (I can think of nobody else for the role) was released recently. I thought the movie was ok, ok – Julia Roberts smiles as luminously as ever, there are loving shots of Rome and the paddy fields of Bali (I am not saying anything about the India cliches) – you can’t go wrong there. However, it lacks the resonance that the book echoed with – it felt somewhat vacuous (and for that reason, precisely, I find that many people liked the movie!).
The movie version is somewhat uni-dimensional, lacking the nuances of the book. Here, you like the lady and you like what she is doing with her life – and there is no scope for any judgment. Apart from a couple of scenes of Roberts crying / unhappy, there is nothing of Gilbert’s struggle and angst. The movie falls into neatly into the category of chick-travel, without saying much about anything at all.
I would read the book again and again, but I am not so sure about watching the movie again. What did you think about the book and the movie?