Saturday, 22 October 2011

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho (1.5/5)

The back says: Veronika has everything she could wish for – young and pretty, with plenty of attractive boyfriends, a steady job, a loving family. Yet Veronika is not happy and one winter’s morning she takes an overdose of sleeping pills, only to wake up some time later in the local hospital. There she is told that although she is alive, her heart is now irreparably damaged and she has only a few days to live…

This story follows her through these intense days as she starts to question all her ideas about life. Soon she comes to realize that every second of existence is a choice we all make between living and dying. This is a moving and uplifting song to life, one that reminds us that every momentin our lives is special and precious.

I say: Ok, so before I start this review I have to point out that there’s this blog that I read regularly (no need to mention names) where the authors all have some form of issue with Coelho. I had never read anything by him, but after one of them gave his name as reply to a question that went something along the lines of “if you go home with someone (assuming after a night out), what one book/author on their bookshelves would make you turn around and leave?”

Obviously, I was intrigued.

Note: I have known about Coelho for years, but just never felt the urge to read anything by him. So when I came across this at the charity shop I thought “I might as well.”

Although, I really shouldn’t have.

I’ll come right out and say it: I genuinely hated this. Really just hated it. I had to force myself to keep reading, and not just because I kept falling asleep out of boredom, or rolling my eyes at the inane language, or having to retrieve the book after flinging it across the room, but mostly because I hate leaving things unfinished.

And also because my friend told me that she liked the twist at the end.

The twist that I figured out somewhere around page 40 and kept hoping that that wasn’t what she meant because it’s not a twist if you can see it coming – it’s just a very prolonged turn.

Now, to make this a little more constructive I’ll tell you exactly what made me hate this.

The first thing occurred on the very first page where Coelho namedrops himself.

In third person.

I mean, come the hell on!

I’ve never understood why authors do that in a work of fiction. “Oh hey, look at me. I’m so full of awesome that even the people I invent love me.”


Then I thought that perhaps he was retelling a true story that he was a part of, which made me think even worse of him because why write it in that manner?

The second thing was the reasons Veronika wanted to end her life. Now, far be it for me to decide why people should or shouldn’t kill themselves, but really? Yes, Coelho was trying to point out how pointless Veronika’s reasons were, but just ugh.

The third reason was Coelho namedropping himself again, and talking about how his parents had him put in a mental hospital.

“Paulo Coelho wanted to know all the details of what had happened, because he had a geniuine reason for finding out about Veronika’s story.

The reason was the following: he himself had been admitted into an asylum or, rather, mental hospital as they were better know. And this had happened not once, but three times, in 1965, 1966 and 1967. The place where he had been interned was the Dr Eiras Sanatorium in Rio de Janeiro.” – p 16

Why are we being given this information? What does this have to do with the story? Who cares about Paulo Coelho being in a mental hospital?

And this self-lovefest ends as such:

“So let us allow Paulo Coelho […] to leave this book for good and let us get on with the story.” – p 17



This is where I just gave up on the thing altogether and merely kept reading to find the twist that never was, and it pained me to keep going. The prose was just so grating; the characters were such dull simpletons with no discernable depth; not to mention all these really inanely pseudo-insightful sentences here and there that made me cringe, and then throw the book across the room.


I know I already mentioned that but it bears repeating.

I’m still going to read The Alchemist when it’s available at the library, and we’ll see how that goes.

So yeah, 1.5/5 because there were a few interesting questions in here, I just didn’t like the way they were presented or dealt with.

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