Committed: A Love Story by Elizabeth Gilbert

(London: Bloomsbury, 2010) Different editions seem to have different subtitles! Weird!  I read the kindle edition.

A friend of mine had read this book and wanted to know what I thought of it.  Elizabeth Gilbert is famous for writing Eat, Pray, Love and this is kind of (in the broadest sense of the word) a sequel and has itself become a New York Times best seller.  In Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert describes her quest for self-discovery post-divorce.  She recaptures life through Eating in Italy, Praying in India and Loving in Bali.  In Committed, Gilbert describes what happens to her Love Relationship when forced with the realities of life over the long haul.

Gilbert and her soulmate are confronted with the social necessity of marriage when Felipe is refused entry into the United States, where they had taken up residency as a couple.  Another year of soul-searching travel ensues as they submit to the bureaucratic requirements of visa by marriage.  Neither Elizabeth nor Felipe had any desire for (re)marriage and the book records Gilbert’s sometimes tortured attempts to find a cultural interpretation that works for them.  It’s mostly entertaining story telling, and I know enough of the original scholarship to see she’s done her research properly, so it’s actually a pretty good, accessible exploration into the social construction of marriage.  Best of all it has a happy ending!

The one thing I hadn’t come across before was the work of Ferdinand Mount, that Gilbert herself was surprised to unearth. ‘Sir William Robert Ferdinand Mount, 3rd Baronet,’ a proper English conservative by any stretch of the imagination, wrote a book called The Subversive Marriage (1992).  He points out that no totalitarian regime in history has ever fully conquered the privacy of the marriage bed.  Heres a quote:

“The family is a subversive organization.  In fact, it is the ultimate and only consistently subversive organization.  Only the family has continued throughout history, and still continues, to undermine the State.  The family is the enduring permanent enemy of all hierarchies churches and ideologies.  Not only dictators, bishops and commissars but also humble parish priests and cafe intellectuals find themselves repeatedly coming against the stony hostility of the family and its determination to resist interference to the last.”

So if you’re after a popular version of some of the reddress themes on sex, love and marriage, I’m happy to recommend Committed.

I really enjoyed some of the ‘famous quotes’ she uses to start her chapters, here’s some of my favourites:

“Marriage is a friendship recognized by the police.”  – Robert Louis Stevenson

“be of love (a little)/ more careful/ than of everything” – e.e. cummings

“Today the problem that has no name is how to juggle work, love, home and children.” – Betty Friedan, The Second Stage

“Of all the actions of a man’s life, his marriage does least concern other people; yet of all the actions of our life, ’tis the most meddled with by other people.” – John Selden, 1689

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