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March 29, 2010 | by  | in Books |
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Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

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Veronika could have been a concert pianist but instead she got a law degree. And then she tried to kill herself. While this may seem like infallible logic to most, Veronika’s given reasons for taking to the sleeping pills were these: indignation over the world’s lack of interest in Slovenia—the novel’s setting—and the realisation that after you hit 24, everything starts going downhill.

Welcome to 1997 ladies: life before Sex and the City. Veronika’s lacklustre efforts to rid herself of the middle-class dream land her with a one-way ticket to a mental hospital, where she finds out that her failed suicide has damaged her heart so badly that she’ll die within a week. Instead of donning a party hat and celebrating her ironic good fortune, Veronika somewhat predictably starts to experience all the repressed emotions that surface as she stumbles through the snowy fields of crazytown. Stumbling along with her are Eduard, the schizophrenic love interest, Zedka, the token depressed housewife, and Mari, another victim of the Slovenian LLB.

Most of the novel is given over to musings about the benefits of madness, which are only credible because none of the four characters are genuinely insane, and if you’re not used to Paulo Coelho’s fable-esque writing style, you may be surprised at how simple the narrative seems. Ultimately though, the whole thing smacks of cliché, for which Coelho should have no excuse—after all, this is a man who found himself chucked in to the looney bin not once, but a rather respectable three times. I’m sure the ending was a good idea in his head, but the ‘plot twist’ he throws in is the be-all and end-all of unsatisfying conclusions. Shame, Coelho, shame on your name.

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