In a funny way I’ve always wanted to read this book and a lot of people have been recommending it to me for a very long time but as I don’t really like Coelho I kept putting it off. Finally I’ve got an opportunity to read it and I didn’t mind it too much.
Veronika purposely overdoses on sleeping pills and wakes up the next day in a mental asylum. There she is told that the pills have damaged her heart and she has only one week to live. At first Veronika sticks to routine but since there are other mad people surrounding her she loses her inhibitions and starts to become more spontaneous (like slapping a man or playing a piano) and live a day-to-day existence. In other words she becomes a person. The people who help her grow spiritually are some of the inmates, namely Zedka, Mari and Edouard, who all have been victims of societies norms. There’s also a sub plot about The Asylum’s head doctor but that would give away the plot.
As usual Veronika is a typical Coelho story. It’s spiritual, positive and offers guidance in a self help sort of way. Actually it is his least preachy book so it didn’t bother me as much. I will say though that he does pile on the sadness throughout most of the book to such a degree that it becomes ridiculous but then Coelho is all about that. I did like the fact that Coelho breaks the fourth wall and enters the book as a character and i’m sure that Edouard represents the author as well (Coelho was institutionalized due to the fact that he was artistic) .
In the end the message of Veronika Decides to Die is for us to break free of life’s constraints and to live a life that helps us develop and become full human beings. As a novel it is quite good – not superb or a masterpiece but it will lift your spirits up if you are going through a bad patch.
My first taste of Coelho was The Alchemist. A book I disliked, mainly cause I thought that it was regurgitated Middle Eastern Philosophy with a self help sheen to dupe people into thinking that the novel would take them to some higher plane. As I pointed out this opinion to many people, I met two very distinct opinions. There were those who swore by the book and those who swore at the book. I admit I guess I’m in the latter category. Saying that at the time I was swindled by the bookstore I worked at and I turned to the book so that I would feel better but I suffered from the opposite effect.
Which brings us to The Devil and Miss Prym, a book that I should read before I die. Keeping in mind my first Coelho experience, I was quite sceptical about the whole thing and began to read it with a sort of mocking undertone in my brain.
When I was a kid, there were a series of televised fairy tales (no it’s not Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre) that had a popular following on video tape. The reason being the series were constantly rented out and you really had to rely on luck in order to find one of the blessed things! There was one story in particular about a man who made some Faustian pact with a creature in which he would forgo washing altogether in order to lead a rich life. Predictably his social life went down the proverbial drain so he gladly gave up the cash in order to apply soap to his grubby torso.
When I was reading The Devil and Miss Prym I was transported into the past as the novel is indeed a fairy tale with a more Christocentric message.
One fine day in the poor village of Visco a fellow possessed by evil decides to see if the villagers are capable of evil. He does this by offering 10 bars of pure gold to the villagers if they kill one person in their close knit society. To make matters worse this stranger uses a barmaid called Chantal Prym as her mouthpiece and rope her into doing his dirty work. (in fact I noted that it was similar to the book of Job- and then two pages later there are quotes from the book)
When the village find out about this plan many discussions about the nature and personification of evil. All done through parable. Eventually through Miss Prym they reach a decision and find out that the secret to a rich life lies within our free will. In order not to give any spoilers I have to be this vague.
Being a Theology student, I found a lot of points postulated in the book to be quite valid, However Coelho sometimes becomes way too preachy for his own good and it can be a bit bothersome. One gets the feeling that he is some perfect faultless being or at least he’s using his books as a mouthpiece for that concept. After a little while I did put this aspect aside and I did like the book. Essentially it’s a cautionary tale that’s a bit more religious in it’s outcome.
Will I tackle Coelho again after this? probably not, unless another one of his books are part of the 1001 list. Don’t ask me the reason cause I don’t know why. However I will say that i’ve seen him in another light and I am glad that I tackled this novel.