Between the Covers


Elizabeth Gilbert

In Gilbert’s first book Eat pray love, to cope with a traumatic divorce she eats her way through Italy, prays through an extensive stay in an Indian ashram, and falls in love in Bali.

This book picks up in Bali, where she soon finds out that the only way her new Brazilian born, Australian passport holder partner will be allowed into the USA again under stringent changes post 9/11, is if she marries him. They had both sworn off remarriage following equally disastrous divorces, so Gilbert sets out to find it in her heart to embrace this unavoidable legal union.

Having a late second marriage myself, I had so much resonance with her situation, and appreciated the way she was able to articulate the choices a person makes with regard to marriage. What follows is a comprehensive overview, where she expands her own interests and concerns into an analysis of marriage on a global level.

She covers historical, cultural, and religious world attitudes to sex and marriage from ancient times to the present, from isolated tribes to mainstream. Included is the history of the Christian church’s involvement from active resistance to reluctant tolerance to relatively recent ownership complete with extensive rules.

She also explores what marriage means to individuals that she knows personally, including members of her own family.

This book works best when she involves us in her relationship with Felipe, who comes across as romantic, caring, laid back and funny.

“Let us not dwell on the mistakes of the past, darling. Let us concentrate instead on the mistakes of the future.”

Gilbert has wonderful dissertations about: the differences between infatuation and love; the vastly different experiences men and women have within a marriage, with much to say about women’s lot; the implications of her decision not to have children – a major sub-theme; the opposing ‘Greek’ and ‘Hebrew’ approach to life (nothing to do with religion); …all this peppered with their extensive travels in South East Asia, with episodes such as eating boiled bullfrogs with their taxi driver’s family in a remote village in Laos.

I greatly admired the blend of personal and political, especially the way she wove stories of ordinary people whose lives had been shattered by the actions of US Homeland Security. A wonderfully entertaining, informative and thought-provoking read, with a surprising personal resolution at the end.

Books reviewed are available at the Book Warehouse in Keen Street, Lismore, and at Lismore Shopping Square.

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