Book Review: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Image of Book Cover: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Title: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage

by: Elizabeth Gilbert

Rating: 4.0

Number of Pages: 285

Format: nonfiction, memoir

Reason for Reading: I loved Eat, Pray, Love

Publisher’s Synopsis:At the end of her bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who had been living in Indonesia when they met.  Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but they also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances, get married.  (Both were survivors of previous bad divorces. Enough said.)  But providence intervened one day in the form of the U.S. government, which-after detaining Felipe at an American border crossing-gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again. Having been effectively “sentenced to wed,” Gilbert decided to tackle her fears of matrimony by becoming a student of the institution.  Over the next ten months, as she and Felipe wandered haphazardly across Southeast Asia, waiting for the U.S. government to permit them to return to America and get married, the only thing she talked about, read about, or thought about was this perplexing subject. Committed tells the story of one woman’s efforts-through contemplation, historical study, and extensive conversation with every soul she encountered along the way-to make peace with marriage before she entered its estate once more.  Told with Gilbert’s trademark wit, intelligence, and compassion, the book attempts to “turn on all the lights” when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks, and humbling responsibilities. Myths are debunked; fears are unthreaded; historical perspective is sought; and romantic fantasies are ultimately exchanged for vital emotional compromises.  In the end, the book becomes a kind of celebration of love-with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, will always entail.

My Thoughts:

I really love how Gilbert researches things as thoroughly as she can. I like research, but I am more of a dabbler. I love how she took this question of why should she get married and went out and enthusiastically sought out answers. What she found amazed me. I do not know the whole history of marriage and was fascinated by what I learned from this book. 

“If anything, marriage is an institution that is constantly changing, not a fixed state as some would have you believe.  At one time marriage was NOT sanctioned by the church. Eventually, they made it a part of the church because they couldn’t stop people from getting married. Can’t stop someone from doing something, the next best thing is try to control how they do it.  Marriage was not always one man and one woman. At one time it was one man and several women or vice versa. At one time people waited until after they were pregnant before getting married.”

  She questions why women should get married and do we benefit from it. She explores the ways marriage has historically oppressed women. She explores how marriage changed from people choosing your partner for you to people having the freedom to choose.  By the end Gilbert is more confused than ever and just as unsure as she was when she started until she came across an essay titled, “The Subversive Family” by Ferdinand Mount. Mount puts forth his theory that all marriages are automatically an act of submission against authority and the families that grow out of these unions are subversive units.

“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.”

Mount reasons that couples joining in a non-arranged marriage are coming together for deeply private reasons and form secret lives, they become a threat to anyone who wants to take over the world.

“The first goal of any given authoritarian body is to inflict control on any given population, through coercion, indoctrination, intimidation, or propaganda.  But authority figures, much to their frustration, have never been able to entirely control, or even monitor, the most secret intimacies that pass between two people who sleep together on a regular basis.”

I love this!!!! I have had my own issues with marriage dating back since forever so it was a big surprise to myself and my loved ones when I announced my engagement. Reading about The Subversive Family made me feel like dancing around in glee. Ha! Take that! I felt like saying. To whom, I’m not quite so sure, but I had never considered marriage from that angle and now that I have, I’m kinda in love with it.

“What passes between a couple alone in the dark is the very definition of the word ‘privacy.’ And I’m not just talking about sex here but about its far more subversive aspect: intimacy. Every couple in the world has the potential over time to become a small and isolated nation of two-creating their own culture, their own language, and their own moral code, to which nobody else can be privy.”

Gilbert still has the same conversational style where you feel like you are sitting with a friend having a chat over some a cup of tea or coffee, if that’s your thing. If you loved Eat, Pray, Love I daresay you’d love this one too. However, if you were on the opposite side of the fence you may not love it. However, I would urge to you to give it a chance, just because the research she has done on the institute of marriage is so thorough and where else are you going to learn all of this if you aren’t a marriage historian?  Truly, this book is a fascinating look at one of the oldest and currently one of the most talked about institutions.

Other favorite quotations:

“Even as early as the mid-1800s, you start to see prim, fussy, social conservatives suggesting that this trend toward expressive individualism in marriage would spell out the very breakdown of society. What these conservatives specifically predicted was that allowing couples to make life matches based purely on love and the whims of personal affection would promptly lead to astronomical divorce rates and a host of bitterly broken homes. Which seems a little ridiculous now, doesn’t it? Except that they were kind of right.”

“Do I sound like I’m trying to talk myself into something here? People I am trying to talk myself into something here. This entire book-every single page of it-has been an effort to search through the complex history of Western marriage until I could find a small place of comfort in there for myself. On my friend Jean’s wedding day over thirty years ago, she asked her mother, ‘Do all brides feel this terrified when they’re about to get married?’ and her mother replied, even as she calmly buttoned up her daughter’s white dress, ‘No, dear. Only the ones who are actually thinking.’ Well, I have been thinking very hard about all this.  The leap into marriage has not come easily for me, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. Perhaps it’s fitting that I needed to be persuaded into marriage-even vigorously persuaded-especially because I am a woman, and because matrimony has not always treated women kindly.”

This entry was posted in Memoir, Nonfiction, Posts by Jehara and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

  1. Emma says:

    Sounds great and I really enjoyed Eat, Pray Love though not the movie so much.

  2. I won this one a while back but haven’t picked it up. Your review has me itching to take a look. I think the history of marriage might make the current debate on marriage a little more intelligent.

  3. izzybella says:

    This is a really intriguing read. Actually, I’ve been doing some research for the book faith and I are working on that’s relevant to the topic at hand. The first has do with how the original 300 settlers of Texas cohabitated-there wasn’t really a priest there at the time, so they’d do marriage bonds and shack up, with the promise that they’d have a church wedding once there was a church official to perform the ceremony. When Father Muldoon became the priest for that area, only about half of them came forward and made it legal. The others kind of quietly slunk away, either because they were disenchanted with being together or they figured it was just a waste of time and money.

    And then, I read a bit on an female actor named Adah Menken who said something along the lines of “all men should get married, but no woman should. The fault lies in our upbringing. We are trained to desire that state above all and once we obtain it, we lose ourselves and become nothing.” A bit pessimistic and kind of amusing considering she was married four times…

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