In A Note to the Reader at the beginning of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Committed, she lists twenty-seven women friends as the readers for whom she wrote this book – her follow on to the massively successful Eat Pray Love. It is a mark of the immediacy of her writing that I was disappointed not to see my name in that list and from here on in have come to think of myself as the twenty-eighth friend.
That said, Committed is no Eat Pray Love. For starters its title is not nearly as catchy. I would go so far as to say that the author has probably had some sort of subliminal effect on the English language with the catchy EPL – one can hardly say the word “Eat” now without the other two words following hot on its heels.
In fact I am somewhat bewildered as to why Committed was selected as the title of this book. Why not Marriage? The book is resolutely about marriage and barely scrapes the surface of all those other partnerships (increasingly popular in this day and age) that have not resulted in some sort of public, legal wedding event. It is no spoiler to say that at the end of this book Elizabeth and Felipe do marry and succumb to the delights of a wedding ceremony to boot. It is such a pity that Gilbert is unable to attend the festival, I would so have loved an opportunity to ask her more about the choice of title.
What does the reader get from Committed? Well, for starters there is a really good expose of marriage from an economical, historical, social, familial and cultural perspective. It should be compulsory reading for every thinking couple. In addition you get to follow the love story of Elizabeth and Felipe through the months leading up to their marriage. But wait, there’s more – because much of the book is set in South East Asia so all those lovers of Gilbert’s travel writing will have a little something to look forward to (although after reading Committed, I am in no hurry to visit Cambodia) and it is all presented in Gilbert’s inimitable style – informative, open, chatty and at times directly engaging.
But, in the world of Venn diagrams, I think that Gilbert may find there is scant overlap in the readership circles of these two books. The millions who loved EPL may recoil from the research details of Committed, the readers who hated EPL probably won’t try the next book anyway. So where does that leave us? With a new set of readers who will pick up the book on the strength of its somewhat misleading title? Or the tiny group of which I suspect I am probably a part: those who loved Eat Pray Love and who find to our delight that we love this next book as much, if not better.