I never intended to read this book. I’d read the author’s previous book “Eat, Pray, Love” and really enjoyed most of it. The part I enjoyed least was Bali and the story of how the author met Felipe, the fiance in “Committed”. The first chapter of “Committed” was included at the back of that book and it didn’t spark my interest. I’d also heard other people being less than complimentary, so when I eventually began reading “Committed”, it was with the expectation of not liking it very much at all.
But as it turned out, I enjoyed it.
Gilbert has clearly carried out some extensive research and has read widely on the subject. The book doesn’t always have something new to tell the (40-something) reader but there were many times when I found myself nodding along in agreement with the point being made. Reading it was almost like chatting with a girlfriend about things that we are all thinking and experiencing but not necessarily articulating well or at all. I liked the use of metaphor in the book, for example the story about the driver in the forest who was causing raging fires because his car was damaged, and he was completely unaware of the destruction he was causing. Gilbert uses this to illustrate how her behaviour in her twenties caused devastation in her own life, of which she was completely unaware at the time. The book could be dismissed as nothing new, but as Gilbert herself says, some people don’t know these things or haven’t thought about them in any depth before. For those people, of whatever age, including me, this book is vaguely illuminating, reinforcing as it does some of my own thoughts about marriage that I’d never actually articulated in concrete terms before.
I sometimes found the tone of the book to be baffling. Whilst stating that she is anti-marriage and would never have got married again, Gilbert also states that marriage is the best thing for society and humankind as a whole. She says that gay marriage should be encouraged because any marriage at all is only going to save the institution of marriage and that is for the benefit of all. She seems to be saying that marriage is OK for everyone else but she’s not going to sully herself by willingly participating in it, as if she doesn’t need those benefits and is somehow above all that. I found this confusing.
I also found the style to be a bit too introspective at times. The book cover states that Gilbert “delves into the subject of marriage” but I found there to be too many references to her own personal experience with Felipe. I enjoyed the examples drawn from the experience of Gilbert’s friends and relatives but for some reason found myself having little sympathy for Gilbert’s own situation. She’s an intelligent woman, how did she think that Felipe crossing US borders every three months was going to go unnoticed?
This book isn’t written in the original, tightly constructed style of some other writers I admire (Paul Auster, Khalid Hosseini, Ian McEwan) but it’s not a PhD thesis, it’s not supposed to be groundbreaking, just an enjoyable review of matrimonial history and customs. I liked this book mainly because it is full of insights into other people’s lives, both from history and modern times and offers a small glimpse into social history and the choices people make, or have had made for them by others. It was easy to read and in some places just “slipped down” without much actual effort required from the reader, but even at these times I still found the book to be interesting enough to keep me turning the pages.
Not the best book I have ever read, by a long way, but not the worst either.