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.


  1. I love the Big Ass Book Sale!

    Back to Coelho. I hate that this book is on so many "books you must read" lists because after suffering through The Alchemist, which reads like a cross between Eckhart Tolle and The Secret, in the worst way, I simply refuse to pick up any other books by him. When people tell me Coelho changed their life, I just want to pity them.

  2. Hi Jenny. I actually know no one, outside of the world wide internets, outside of you, who has actually read Coelho. I've seen him come up on blogs and on GoodReads. Even then I've never heard/read anyone say that he changed their life. I would want to pity them too. But to each their own I guess.

    One thing I did note of that Veronika is littered with some pretty good lines. If they were weaved into a good story, Coelho may have had something here. Instead, it was like I just made my way through a sack of fortune cookies.

  3. The thing I find with Coelho and most of the didactic stories "THAT TEACHES LIFE LESSONS" like my mother would say, is that they think you're stupid.

    The magic of literature happens when you just "get" it, without being directly told. To witness characters shine in moments of darkness and get inspired. Coelho grabs you by the lapel and yells at you to admire his characters. I really hate that. Veronika was by far the worse book I have read in 2010.