Of everyone I’ve ever interviewed, none of them has inspired people to react the way they do when I tell them I’m meeting Elizabeth Gilbert. One friend stands up from her seat in the pub and gasps. Another shouts, ‘But I want to interview her!’ and – I’m almost sure of it – stamps her foot. A woman I meet at a dinner the night before the interview puts down her fork grips my arm and says: ‘I ended my marriage when I read that book.’
‘That book’ is, of course, Eat Pray Love. A memoir written by Elizabeth in 2006, it told the story of her divorce aged 34 and the subsequent year-long trip of spirituality, curiosity, pleasure and self-discovery spent in Italy, India, and Indonesia. It was read by 13 million people and turned into a film starring Julia Roberts as Elizabeth and Javier Bardem as a man named Felipe – a pseudonym for the Brazilian businessman Jose Nunes, whom Elizabeth met in Bali, fell in love with and went on to marry in 2007.
Eat Pray Love is a bible on many women’s bookshelves. It spent more than 200 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Oprah Winfrey told us to read it. Tyra Banks even reportedly went to Bali, directly inspired by the memoir, in the hope of recovering after a relationship had ended. I read it aged 23 and swiftly booked a trip to Bali on the turn of the final page. While I was there, I saw so many Elizabeth Gilbert imperso