Saturday, April 2, 2011
Veronika Decides to Die - Paolo Coelho
Oh, didactic fiction...
I've had this book for awhile. I picked it up at the Big Ass Book Sale last year. I've been interested in reading Coelho for sometime, but I kept reading mixed reviews. Mostly people seemed to complain that he is too simple. Not a problem for me. I like, love even, simple stories. I could probably spend a whole post on how simple stories are no easier to pull off then complex stories. I also like simple, straight-forward tight prose. I can't say that I've heard Coelho's prose called simple, but I can see it being labeled such. I had no problem with his prose. The story, though?
It reads like a cheap self-help book disguised as fiction. I like stories with a message, but I do want that message veiled by a good story. In the case of Veronika Decides to Die, despite being billed a "Novel of Redemption", the theme is conformity/non-conformity. It's really about learning to do your own thing without the restraint of societal norms. I dig the message...not the delivery. I suppose there's redemption, too. But conformity rules the day.
Coelho was placed in a mental hospital when he was young, so he knows something of the workings of the setting in the novel - Veronika is placed in a mental hospital after attempting suicide. He also knows a great deal about struggling against conformity, as his own struggle with wanting to be a writer against his parents' wishes is what put him in the hospital. I believe Coelho claims Veronika to be his most personal novel for those reasons. And that may be why, despite its many shortcomings, the novel still managed to touch me. Those places are few and far between, but they at least have me considering give Coelho another chance. YEARS DOWN THE ROAD.