Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, LoveEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was bookclub pick that I really didn’t want to read. I had heard all the negative reviews about the book and movie. So I was pleasantly surprised. While I wouldn’t make the choices the author did – and let’s face it, most of us do not have either the money or the time to take a year out of our lives to go to such extremes in our search for self and happiness – I wouldn’t necessarily call her self-absorbed and narcissistic. We all make this journey at some point in our lives. She writes with honesty and humor about herself and the people she meets along the way. And in the end she is able to get out of her own way enough to raise money to help a struggling woman buy a house and even finds love when she has stopped looking for it. I would like to find out how this love story continues in her follow-up book “Committed.”

Description: This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls “Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister”) is poised to garner yet more adoring fans.

 

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The Lady Queen

The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and SicilyThe Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily by Nancy Goldstone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fascinating subject with enough drama for a soap opera, but it just didn’t come alive for me. Perhaps because of the lack of primary sources, the book gets bogged down by too many mundane details. Who cares that they left one city on a specific date and arrive somewhere else four days later on a specific date. Still, this Lady is begging to be better known. Her life and times were harrowing and tragic, with violent husbands, feuding families, a papal schism, the plague decimating all of Europe, and the “free companies” marauding and pillaging the countryside. And yet she maintained her sanity, held her own against all the plotting and conniving, built churches and hospitals, sponsored the writer Petrarch at her court, reduced crime, and was an ardent promoter of peace.

Description: In 1348, at the age of twenty-two, Joanna I, the queen of Naples, stood trial before the pope, accused of murdering her cousin and husband, Hungarian prince Andrew. Arguing her own case in Latin, she won her acquittal, and went on to become the only female monarch in her time to rule in her own name; she presided over one of Europe’s most prestigious and influential courts for more than thirty years—until she herself was murdered. For the first time, Nancy Goldstone tells the full story of one of the most courageous and accomplished women in history, painting a captivating portrait of medieval royalty in all its splendid complexity.

The Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (Illustrated Modern Library)The Pickwick Papers: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Charles Dickens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A comical romp through the English countryside, which pokes fun at politics, lawyers, medical students, aggressive middle-aged women, fat people, costume parties, and “scientific” research, for starters. Along the way, it is also a morality tale. The genial, bumbling Mr. Pickwick learns something about human nature along the way and is a better person for it. Goodness, generosity, mercy and forgiveness will triumph over greed, meanness, cruelty, and deception. Dickens is at his best when describing parties, Christmas festivities, and the conviviality of food and drink and friendship. My favorite character is Sam Weller, the faithful servant, friend, and surrogate son to Mr. Pickwick. One wonders if Tolkien modeled Samwise after this character. The plot, if you can call it that, is frequently interrupted by story telling. While the result is a bit rambling, the stories do usually either parallel or contrast something in the current situation. And of course, the whole thing is told with wickedly funny dialogue, satire and wordplay already mature in this first work of Dickens.

Description: Meet Mr. Pickwick, General Chairman and Member of the Pickwick Club, whose aim it is to advance knowledge (meet the good people of the neighborhood) and diffuse learning (talk with the good people of the neighborhood) by widening its members’ sphere of observation (traveling to and between the good people of the neighborhood) so long as the effort be not too great (which it rarely is) and that there be plenty of room for good cheer (of which there is never a lack). Meet Mr. Pickwick, and you cannot fail to meet those cheery gentlement Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Tracy Tupman, Mr. Jingle, and Mr. Nathaniel Winkle. Meet Mr. Pickwick, and without a doubt your day will dawn a little brighter, and your temperament will be a little sweeter for the aquaintance. Narrated by Patrick Tull.