Customer Review

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deeply flawed.., 28 Dec 2011
This review is from: Aleph (Hardcover)
Unfortunately, this book left me cold.

For me it felt like a really good example of unconscious behaviour in action. Coelho might want to call this a mystical experience, but in reality it read more like the mid life crisis of a man approaching 60 who just goes the same stereotypical route of falling for a 21 year old and wants to label it a spiritual experience so that he can fit it into his marriage.

But this isn't just any man, the main character in the book is Coelho himself. He has a following and an awareness that people, particularly his fans, look up to him and hero worship him. He may not want that or ask for that but whether he likes it or not it's how it is and he has a certain responsibility to behave well, particularly towards a young rather unstable 21 year old fan.

The whole relationship with Hilal was wrong for me on so many levels. If the reincarnation part is real, which I believe it was for him, then I don't understand how he couldn't see that all he was doing was recreating the same use and betrayal of Hilal as he did 500 years before. It was all about him and his need to get to a resolution of his past behaviour and in doing so just repeated the cowardly, needy, position protecting behaviour all over again.

If you look at this book from Hilal's point of view none of her needs were met and she was treated more like a stray dog being tolerated and given scraps (of information and attention) rather than a person with thoughts and feelings and problems of her own. The ironic thing was that in the past she was in the right place 'spiritually' and even now, with all her issues, she was the more honest party yet again.

I know there are deeper things that occur when working through past life healings but if she did get to a healing place I feel it was in spite of and not because of Coelho's actions. There are ways to treat people in such situations and I didn't feel they were respected here.

However all that said the one thing about this book is that it was written honestly. Whether he realises it or not he didn't paint a pretty portrait of himself. He could have written in justifications and excuses with the benefit of hindsight, but didn't. But perhaps that is more likely because he truly believes that what he did was necessary for him and therefore fine.

The only character with a smattering of conscious awareness for me was Yao. I'd like to hear more about him.

I realise that all of this is my judgement and we can't ever know what's truly going on in someone's heart, however we are human and we do make assumptions based on the information provided. In this case I'd say that if you want to read a really good example of how, even when we think we have reached a certain level of wisdom, we can make poor judgements and mistake ego and unconscious motivations for "spirituality" then this book is a great example of that.

I gave it two stars because I did learn something from it, which is that life is a work in progress and that we will make mistakes and we can be very selfish at times. This book was a good reminder for me to learn from these life events but not to fool myself into promoting them as spiritual acts.
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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Jan 2012 09:45:56 GMT
SooniBoo says:
I must agree 99% with Lightworks' review. Remaining 1% is that I nearly got angry with the author's description/imagination of what the girl must be feeling in "his past life". I suppose he understands very little about abuse especially when it is in sexual nature. I am convinced that if this book was his first book, nobody would publish it at all due to its helplessly poor understanding of human nature/women. I read Alchemist long time ago and I liked it, but not this one.

Posted on 28 Mar 2012 11:38:08 BDT
Good review - I found the same. It was all a bit childish really.

Posted on 7 Apr 2012 16:03:24 BDT
Bettie Blue says:
I agree wholeheartedly with this review. Even to the point that I came away from it with the same conclusion about life as a 'work in progress'. He was not at all careful with this young woman's feelnigs who had, after all, already been a victim of sexual abuse and sorry to say Paulo, your actions only helped to continue this pattern as she sought approval from a much older man, a father figure who she believed had deep spiritual connections.

I too would have loved to heard more about Yao, who appears to be the only truly enlightened person in the book.

Another plus I would like to add though is that it proves that even those who can write some highly evocative and life enhancing novels is, after all, as human and deeply flawed as the rest of us.

Posted on 7 Aug 2012 11:08:49 BDT
Angie says:
I agree with this review. For me the book started off really well. But sadly I became very dissapointed with it as it progressed. I found the whole situation with Hilal very disturbing. To me she was a young emotionally vulnerable woman with a history of sexual abuse. She came across as quite erratic and very needy, understandable given her history, and understandably he had emotional power over her, him being a strong older man with such spiritual beliefs. In his position I just don't feel he acted emotionally responsible at all. Paulo coelho came across as being mysogonistic at times, incredibly irresponsible and self absorbed in his own needs as a man nearing 60, with little regard for 21 year old Hilal's emotional wellbeing. I found it really shocking. As the other review says, at least he didn't have sex with her, it stopped at his fantasies and cuddling her whilst she was naked! I also found him very arrogant at times throughout the book, stating his own spiritual beliefs with such authority as fact to the the other characters. That said, there were parts of the book that were wonderfully written and incredibly inspiring, It was just such a shame that he came across as quite unlikeable to me, given I have always been a huge fan of his books.

Posted on 5 Oct 2012 13:27:06 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Oct 2012 13:27:25 BDT
paolo i. says:
I totally agree, on top of that it was poorly written. He also wrote pretentious, uncorrect things on shamanism, in the Baikal chapter. As someone said, had this been his first book, nobody would have published it.
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