A friend lent me a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love in the summer and I admit I rather put it to one side. I had already been asked to be on a panel discussing Julia Roberts’ film of the book and, while I was very honoured, I really didn’t want to get up there and talk about divorce in front of a whole roomful of people. I feel I’ve rather done the whole messy end of marriage, call in the lawyers, never speak to the other half thing. Luckily I couldn’t make the date anyway, so that was that.
But I was intrigued by the book. Particularly by the strapline saying ‘8 million copies sold.’ Wow! That’s a whole lot of copies. If I’d even sold 800,000 copies of my novel, Schokohertz (available from lovely www.Amazon.de ) I probably wouldn’t be living in Dulwich any more. Or, if I was, I’d be in the house with the helipad. Whereas, at the moment, my gorgeous friend Dulwich Mum is the only one in the village with a chopper at her disposal.
So Elizabeth Gilbert was clearly doing something right, despite one review of the film calling it ‘Eat, Pray, Sh**.’
Well, I’ve now read it, and while I can’t pretend that I think it is literary gold, it is certainly a hugely likeable book. Gilbert is not afraid, not at all, to confess her mistakes and to admit that she reached rock bottom and had to build herself back up the hard way. Of course, some would think she was incredibly lucky to get an advance to swan around for a year, having an all-expenses-paid midlife crisis. I would certainly be happy to do the putting on two stone while flirting with Italian men in Rome part of the book – but I would much rather not do the waking up at 3.30am to chant part. Yes, she is self-obsessed – but at least she is interesting and funny, even if sometimes inadvertently. I particularly liked the bit where she said she would not be writing about the breakdown of her marriage, as it wouldn’t be fair as her ex had no right of reply. She then proceeded to write the next few hundred pages about the breakdown of her marriage, making it fairly clear that her husband, who was the lesser earner, took all her money, her house and her flat in Manhattan and more or less behaved like a spoilt, spurned trophy spouse.
She does write brilliantly and honestly about the rollercoaster of emotion that is the backwash of a divorce, or of any other split in a serious relationship. The guilt, the waking at 3am in panic, the horror of talking about any of this stuff with lawyers, the sheer awfulness and bitterness of separation from someone once loved. She finally achieves her ‘closure’ (yuck, but there’s surely no avoiding this word in this book) lying on the roof of a tower in India, looking at the stars, in the still watches of the night, and having the conversation with her spouse that’s she’s always needed. Of course he’s not there, which always makes conversations go much more smoothly, in my experience.
You can’t help but hope that Gilbert has now found peace and contentment. And if she hasn’t, of course, we’ll have fun reading all about it.
* On a completely different note, if you’re looking for something to do in London with visitors, or fancy a day out doing your last minute panic buying, measured and thoughtful Christmas shopping, Westfield London shopping centre has a lovely ice rink which has just opened which you can pop along to. If you’re getting hot and bothered by the thought of all that stuff to be bought and wrapped, it’s just the thing to cool you down.
** And, on another note again, don’t forget to click to enter the Next Christmas giveaway. Today 20 £50 gift cards are up for grabs. Well, 19 as I have just entered and I’m feeling lucky ….