Friday, November 2, 2007

BOOK: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo

I really didn't know what to expect with this book. I've heard mixed reviews of Coehlo's The Alchemist, and I don't think I'll like that one, as I'm not into magic realism as a genre - I tried Pedro Paramo earlier this year, and didn't get it at all. All this lead up is to suggest that I didn't think I'd like this book. I was so wrong.

I'm not even sure if I can summarize why I liked this book so much. I don't think it is completely due to the drugs I was taking from my wisdom teeth operation. The story of Veronika, a twenty four year old who is so bored with her life, and how she doesn't see any future for herself, so decides to kill herself, sucked me in with its whimsy and quiet comments on what makes people sane, or crazy. Veronika doesn't succeed at her attempt, and is put into a mental institute in Slovenia, where the book takes place. There she meets other 'crazies' and we see different perspectives of life, and we decide who is crazy or not.

Paohlo covers a lot of territory in his story, including parents expectations of children, family responsibilities, medical ethics - I couldn't decide if I liked the doctor or not, law and rules, just about any issue you would like, but mostly mental illness and how society and people deal with it. But throughout, the writing is clear and easy to follow, with an interesting message. The endnotes of my edition include some notes about Paulo, and this appears to be a semi-autobiographical account of his early twenties.

We are discussing this over at booksintranslation, a yahoo book group, and I can't wait to find out what I liked so much about this book. I know I did, but when I discuss it with other people, it helps clarify some details about the book, and my understanding of the themes and ideas. I always had a problem in English classes in school with the theme; with there being a theme, and being marked right or wrong about the theme.

"You're someone who is different, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. And that, in my view, is a serious illness."
"Is wanting to be different a serious illness? "
"It is if you force yourself to be the same as everyone else. It's a distortion of nature, it goes against God's laws, for in all the world's wood and forests, he did not create a single leaf the same as another."


  1. Great review, and you know I loved this as well! Excellent, excellent book.

  2. I've never read a Coehlo novel, so maybe this would be a good place to start. :) Thanks!

  3. I didn't care for The Alchemist although my husband did. After that I didn't think I'd read Coehlo again, but this sounds like an intriguing book. Maybe I'll give it a try.

    Love that quote. Good review, Raidergirl3.

  4. I disliked The Alchemist so much that I'm still going to avoid him. It felt very preachy to say the least.

  5. 3m - excellent choice of books.

    joy - I get leary of 'important' books and authors, but this was easy to read.

    booklogged - I think The Alchemist is a very different sort of book. I loved that quote too, it summed up the book for me.

    john - this is probably a bit preachy too.

  6. Oh my gosh! I never watch the news. I hope everything turns out okay with you during Noel. I'll be thinking of you!

  7. Great review!! I am one of those people that LOVED The Alchemist!! I thought it was a fantastic tale, and really made a person think.

    I really need to read this book. I joined the Books in Translations group, but I just have't had time to read with them yet!!

  8. I've been wanting to read this one for awhile now. I am glad you enjoyed it!

  9. I've been wanting to read this book all year, but every time I go to the library it is checked out, but I haven't wanted to read it strong enough to place a hold for it. I'm glad to hear you liked it (even if you're not sure why!)


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