Thursday, January 28, 2010

Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert/Couples: The Truth by Kate Figes

How can emancipated women in the 21st century reconcile freedom and professional success with the urge to have children? And can all of this be achieved within that ancient institution, marriage? These are the main questions posed by two very different books tackling the same subject.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s first book, Eat, Pray, Love, sold 7m copies and put her on best-friend terms with many of the women who read it: Oprah Winfrey loved it, so did Julia ­Roberts. In chummy, jolly prose it chronicled her divorce, car-crash post-split love affair and travels abroad to heal her broken life. It was an everywoman journey, told with wit and verve, and resonated globally.

Like Eat, Pray, Love, her follow-up, Committed, feels irresistibly confessional. Although sold as a kind of potted history of marriage, it is really another memoir; this time about how, despite having promised herself never to get hitched again, Gilbert decides to marry her Brazilian lover Felipe (the “Love” of the first book) to get him a green card.

I wasn’t sure early on whether Committed was going to work; Gilbert begins by doing some amateur sociological research, hanging out in southeast Asia with the Hmong tribe, who reckon that one husband is much like another, there to fulfil certain functions (making babies, shifting heavy things) while the woman spends most of her time with the other women. The point Gilbert draws from this is that couples in the West now expect their other half to be everything: best friend, lover, psychologist — and perhaps that’s too much to ask of any one relationship.

- Eleanor Mills,

Read the rest of the review here.

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