The Diary of Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s a #1 New York Times Bestseller and, more recently, a major motion picture. My favorite actress, Julia Roberts, happens to star in the leading role. And yet, I am not impressed.

I am currently attempting my second go at the infamous book, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The first time I picked it up, I made it to India (aka about half-way) before I dropped it for another. It’s been two years since then. This time around, I set it down after chapter 10… approximately one third of the way through Italy.

It wasn’t actually my intention to stop reading it all together, but there was no great urge to continue like I have found in so many other books this summer. (In the meantime, I started and finished the third and final installation of Steig Larsson’s Millennium series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.) I did, however, put aside a couple hours to go see the movie. And, again, I was disappointed.

Hence, I am finding that my motivation to jump back in to E.P.L. is lacking. But, as it was my goal from the start to actually finish it this time, I must go on. I have to ask, though, what is it about this slow, overly-personal story that makes it so respected?

To a certain extent, I can understand the hype. Gilbert’s year long commitment to finding herself is inspirational, to say the least. She sparks a will in her readers to make the time and effort to discover their own personal interests, goals, and deepest desires. Through her own experiences, she encourages others take a serious look into the lives they have created for themselves and ask the hard question: Is this what I really want?

I would be lying if I said that I was not influenced by the story, or at least completely agree with the message behind it.

[Side Note: It is my immediate goal to move somewhere new (whether it be New York, Los Angeles, London, or, like Gilbert, Bali), where I know few or no people. This is, I believe, the only way to truly find out what you want for yourself, as an individual, without the influence of those closest to you. While it is unlikely that I will be able to do this myself (due to a slight to large lack of disposable income), I cannot help but envy those who get to. And Gilbert fits directly into this category.]

But her writing – style, composition, language, and all – is something I simply cannot stand, no matter the context behind it.

The style is informal. The composition is unorganized, scattered. Though Gilbert uses the introduction to explain the set up of each section, which it certainly follows, the paragraphs – actual content – jump from idea to idea. Overall, her account is chronological. But she steers into long-winded tangents, distracting both herself and her reader.

Her language use is conversational. Imagine, if you will, that Gilbert was telling you this story herself – out loud. That is the tone that she portrays. While I do not think that informal language in itself is a barrier to great books, Gilbert’s use detracts from her story. It’s as if Gilbert wrote the book by simply writing down her thoughts throughout each experience. The story line wanders as a train of thought might. And perhaps this was her intent. But it creates awkward sentences and disorganization.

I did not pay $15.00 to read Gilbert’s diary. When I buy a bestseller I expect it to have a captivating plot line and reek of superior writing. And E.P.L is 0 for 2, in my book, despite the success of the overall message and individual lessons.

I have heard a number of people say that they had trouble getting through the India section of Gilbert’s tale, too. But they did. In fact, millions of other people were able to accept her writing style and even enjoy the story she presented. So much so that it became a bestseller. A title that, personally, I do not think it deserves.

Maybe it’s just an extreme difference of personal preference or pet peeves. But I cannot imagine that I alone in my dislike of Gilbert’s story.

And perhaps my opinion will change once I have forced my way through the whole book. But don’t hold your breath.


~ by Jamilyn Mohr on August 18, 2010.

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