Review: Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert

Not a reflection on the quality of Committed, but just something I thought of when I started reading it:  I feel like the premise of the book could be tweaked a bit to make it into an obnoxious little romantic comedy starring one of those actresses that do “quirky” roles.  Elizabeth Gilbert, successful journalist and bestselling author, never wants to get married again!  Until a US immigration officer gives her a deadline: Get married in the next year or be an exile forever!  If this were a movie, she would spend the year meeting wildly unsuitable guys and ignoring her bland but adorable next-door-neighbor/coworker/classmate, before finally realizing that her heart’s desire was in her own backyard.

That’s not really the plot though.  Gilbert is in a serious long-term relationship with Felipe from Eat Pray Love, and neither of them wants marriage.  Felipe gets told by immigration he can’t keep coming back into the country for ninety days and then leaving, ninety days and then leaving, and if he wants to stay, he should just marry Liz Gilbert.  And then she spends the year reading all about marriage.

I find this endearing because I expect that’s exactly what I would do.  In fact that’s what I do do.  When I feel suspicious of something, I go a-hunting for things to read about it.  In a-hunting down the facts in the case of De Profundis, I discovered Oscar Wilde was a screaming over-dramatizer.  In a-hunting down the facts about the oral polio vaccine, I discovered the only correlation between it and AIDS was geographical (like, the places that had medical facilities giving out the oral polio vaccine were the same places where AIDS was getting diagnosed more frequently).  In a-hunting down the facts about free speech as it applies to corporations – I am still looking into that actually.  It is very complicated and makes me feel stupid but I will persist because if Justice Stevens (my favorite Justice, y’all, because he is old and extremely brilliant and he wears a bow-tie) feels it is worth a ninety-page dissent, then I suspect it is worth a ninety-page dissent.

(Yes, I have a favorite Supreme Court Justice.  DEAL WITH IT.)

(That last thing, DEAL WITH IT, that was a Better Off Ted reference.  Any of y’all watch Better Off Ted?  Will anyone besides me miss it when it inevitably gets cancelled?)

Gilbert writes about speaking to wives in other countries, as well as to the wives in her own family, about their experiences of marriage.  She writes about the strain on her relationship with Felipe as a result of their being in limbo.  (She wants to travel to Cambodia, and he wants to settle somewhere and have a coffeepot.  I am totally with him.)  Although this book is not as full of action as Eat Pray Love, Gilbert’s wry wit is still in evidence.  She’s a little bit crazy, but she knows that she is crazy, and in what ways, which is nearly as good as not being crazy in the first place.  Plus? She doesn’t talk trash about her family.  Hurrah!

If I had one complaint, it would be that there is not enough of Gilbert talking to people.  She is good at capturing voices, just like John Berendt, and she should do it more frequently.  Indeed all the time.  If I were in charge of the world, that’s what would happen.

Read for the Women Unbound Challenge.

Other reviews:

Confessions of a Book Hoarder
Book Addiction

Let me know if I missed yours!

  • Gilbert is hysterical in person (at least I thought so)…what you called her wry wit really shines.

    That said, I’m not sure I want to read this one. I read Eat Pray Love for the travel…not sure I can do a whole book on thoughts of marriage.

    • You saw her in person? How cool! I wasn’t sure I was going to be up for an entire book about marriage, but I ended up liking it a lot. I’m curious what she’ll do next – I’ve enjoyed her memoirs so much more than I did the one novel I read by her.

  • I really want to read this. Actually, I really want to read Eat, Pray Love first, which I now possess and must be the last person in the world to read. I did laugh at your idea that the premise could be tweaked into a hideous rom-com. So true – and so glad she avoided that.

    • Eat Pray Love is by far the better book, and I highly recommend reading it if you have it. I put off reading it for ages – I often do that when there’s a lot of hype around a book – and when I finally read it, I couldn’t think what had taken me so long. It’s really a fun book.

  • I’ve read a lot of press about this woman lately. Her books aren’t as big a deal here as they in the US but they are starting to get some attention now there’s going to be a movie of Eat Pray Love. As I am not married, and am not planning on getting married, for some time – would need to find a man first – I’m not sure if I’d find this one that interesting, but I am intrigued by Eat, Pray, Love.

    • I seriously had no idea there was going to be a movie. Not sure how that’s going to work out. The book is terrific though – I hope you like it!

  • I actually didn’t really know what this one was about (besides “marriage”) and didn’t think I’d like it, but given your review I’m pretty sure I wanna try it! Hurrah!

    • I actually wasn’t planning on reading it myself, but then I saw a good review of it on my blogroll, and then my mum bought it and said it was worth a read. I don’t think I would buy it – at least not at full price – because I don’t know that I’ll need to reread it. But I’m glad I read it the once.

  • I liked her biography of Eustace Conway (The Last American Man) but I haven’t read Eat Pray Love. I’m just not sure if I want to. But I do know when I have questions about something, I search through books. I read so many pregnancy/childbirth/parenting books when I had my first kid that I’m still reviewing them every now and then!

    • What’s holding you back from reading Eat Pray Love? Just all the hype, or you don’t like the sound of the premise?

      Oh Lord, if I ever get pregnant, I’m going to be a mess. I’ll be spending all my time huddled inside a nest of books about babies and pregnancy and parenting and child development and child health. 😛

  • anna

    But it sounds like O’Conner when she was on the court was the best one to work for. Get this: she remembered and celebrated all her clerks birthdays, and made sure they had places to live and deliberately picked ones who disagreed with her and when they were looking at cases, she would have saturdays where she’d make them all lunch and the clerks would present on their cases and everyone would argue.

    I wish she was on the court now and I could go work for her!

    • Stevens FTW! He is clever! And has a bow tie!

  • I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! I totally get what you mean about how the story could be twisted to make a movie, I didn’t even think of that but it’s so true. 🙂

    I loved her examination of other cultures, too, and the book would have been even better with more of that. I also really liked when she explored the marriages in her own family, because it really showed that your experiences really shape the way you think about things. She was so anti-marriage not only because of her own first marriage, but also because of her grandmother’s and her mother’s marriages. I liked that she examined all of these factors.

    • Thanks for your review, by the way – I’d been very unsure about reading it before I saw that!

      I loved it when she described the Laotian (I think?) guy Keo – she’s great at capturing people’s voices. I liked it when he asked her to guess how many toenails an elephant had and then said “You are false. I will permit you to guess again.” That cracked me up. So yeah, I’m all in favor of more traveling and more repeating of conversations with people she met.

      I agree with what you say about marriage in your own family shaping how you look at things. My parents didn’t get married until their late twenties, and when I was with my first boyfriend, it never seriously occurred to me that we’d “end up together”. Whereas one of my friends in high school, her parents dated in high school and got married as soon as they graduated, so when she was with her high school boyfriend, she was convinced he was her future husband. It’s interesting!

  • Hm, just piles of other books demanding attention first! And the premise didn’t appeal to me a whole lot….

  • I am reading this right now and completely enjoying it. I was obsessed with Eat, Pray, Love was excitedly awaiting her next book. I was actually happy that it was on marriage because I have I have been a total marriage skeptic since I was about 12 (yes I am now married).

    Even though I am not finished I can see what you mean about her talking to people. I wish the entire book was just one giant conversation because she is so real when she writes them.

    Great review.

    • It’s good, eh? She writes a good travel book! Made me very much want to reread Eat Pray Love.

  • I’m not sure about this book. I’m always skeptical of the second memoir, especially when they come so close together. But the premise sounds interesting, so perhaps. I’m just not sure 🙂

    I love your romantic comedy description — you’re absolutely right!

    • I am very skeptical of a second memoir. Julie of Julie & Julia went on and wrote one about cheating on her husband and learning to be a butcher – two things that squiff me out oh so very much. I’m curious what Gilbert will do next, whether she’ll return to novel-writing or what.