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Veronika Decides to Die
Veronika Decides to Die
by Paulo Coelho
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Supporting characters alone save this from a 1 star rating!, 7 Jan. 2013
Veronika Decides to Die was my first Coehlo read. I purchased this book due to it's synopsis: philosophy and fiction aren't a mix for everyone, but they usually pique my interest.

Having read it, I may as well call this book Veronika Must Die. Here's why: the lead character Veronika is bratish, assumptive and unrealistically convinced of the pointlessness of her life without Coehlo's narrative justifying her view. She is plain annoying and I enjoyed the support characters far more than her predicament.

Coehlo presumes that everyone will be be perplexed by a young, attractive girl 'with her whole life ahead of her' who is staunchly resolved to end it asap. This might be true, if the girls experience to date had limited her view on her lifes possibilities; so she genuinely felt suicide the best option. However, the reader comes to see that Veronika merely presumes to know what lies ahead- there's commentary about the role of women in society (self-sacrificing and for what real gain?) in her early monologue, for instance. Funnily, it is the characters who she meets and gets to know in the mental asylum (particularly one female character whose name I forget but her storyline was one of the major plus points for me) who she actually learns through and realises the possibilities in life. Her will to live is sparked whilst inside, but her know-it-all attitude just grates. Even as I read the more pleasant parts in the book, I could not become absorbed by the philosophical predicament proposed, the story or by the characterisation of Veronika.

If you are really keen to read this book, I advise buying it second hand or borrowing from a library. You may well love it. But the high ratings here gloss over some essential flaws, and Coehlo's attentiveness to his bratty lead is one major one. If you're considering this read based on The Alchemist, seriously check your expectations first! One is an uplifting and enjoyable parable, the other is a contrived tale with aspirations to inspire and instill the reader with renewed gratitude for their life, but actually left me wishing I hadn't bothered.


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