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The latest novel from Paulo Coelho considers if sex and spirituality can go together. While Coelho has included sex and love in other novels, in this novel he writes more explicitly. Because the main character is a prostitute, the obvious focus fro the book is sex in its various forms. Despite being about a young girl who feels that prostitution is her only hope, the book is not sordid, nor does Coelho preach about her profession.
As her dreams of becoming a dancer start to dwindle, as she realises that the man who promised her everything really has nothing that special to offer, Maria turns to prostitution.
Maria later decides that to be the best in her profession, she should learn as much as she can about sex. Due to this, she gains one of the 'special' clients, a man who is into sadomasochism. It is also with him that she finally meets someone who she is able to love.
As with any of Coelho's novels, the writing is sensitive and very thought provoking. Having read this novel, it is easy to see how sex can easily be a weapon as well as a way of expressing love. The brief exploration of sadomasochism serves to illustrate how sex is precious, and while two lovers may want to experiment, they should always keep in mind that they should not risk their soul.
The quote I have used for the title of this review appears at the beginning of the novel. Coelho states that it could easily be applied to anybody's life, and almost at any time within their life. I quoted it because I think it sums up the whole theme of the novel brilliantly.
Please read this book, I cannot reommend it highly enough. Just perhaps, it'll make you look at sex differently...
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on 10 February 2006
I was recommended this book by my partner who was reading it in French, otherwise I probably would never have looked twice at it. I was however pleasently surprised by this book.
It is very easy to read, so easy in fact I read it in 7 hours. It wasnt what I would call a page turner as such but yet somehow I found myself unable to put it down. Not perhaps a life changing book, but very easy and enjoyable to read.
The book follows a girl called Maria and her quest for love. But it is not a typical love story even if the ending is. Some very bold writing looking into the world of prostitution, with two erotic scenes that I think have been stamped in my memory forever.
I would recommend this book if you are looking for a very easy read where you dont have to stretch your mind too much, it flows so well and the plot moves quite quickly. But if you are looking for a challenge in a book with a big beefy plot then it might not be for you.
As a reader of all kinds of literature, from challenging to the not so challenging I found it nice refreshing change.
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on 16 November 2003
Having read the reviews of this book by other readers I have found an urge to say one important thing. There is no need to understand why this book gets bad and good reviews, bacause every personal opinion is just a reflection of the person who has given it. Coelho is wonderful writer. He fills his new work with very deep, meaningful and important messages. However, only those people who are ready, whose soul is tuned into his way teaching, will find it useful. Such perceptive people will find this book amazing, unbelievable and reading it will bacome a life-changing experience for them. On the other hand those people who will complain and feel disappointed after reading the book are simply not ready for receiving the sensitive information that Coelho has included on every page. I just hope that one day these readers will realise the importance of this work and will want to reread it and get as much enlightment out of it as it has to offer, which is endless.
This book is about a girl's search for her own soul, for her unique purpose in life and the thing that makes this search so special is that there are countless steps on her difficult path that the reader can relate to. This book might appeal more to women, but is just as important for men. 'Eleven Minutes' is about helping the reader to search for the secrets of his or her own heart. In that respect it is an invaluable teaching as well as a fascinating read.
My advice to everyone is to at least give this book a go, because I believe that it has the power to touch everyone's soul. It is powerful enough to help one add a stone (even if invisible at first sight) to the road of happiness that every human being is trying to build for themselves.
And of course this book is unique. It is written by a man from a female point of view. And I rtuely don't know just how it is possible for a man to know a female so well from the inside. Not even the most knowledgeable women posses such a deep insight into the female soul.
So for all these men trying to find the woman of their dreams out there, please read this book!!!!! It will help you enormously on your way to success!!!! And of course all the women should read it too, because it is only through the search for oneself that one can find true happiness.
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on 31 December 2006
Paulo Coelho's astonishingly beautiful writing in Eleven Minutes virtually guarantees it the cult status that The Alchemist already enjoys. This book is different from his other works but it reminded me The Zahir from time to time. Its story of girl called Maria, her diary, her thoughts, her trials and tribulations. Coelho's writing mixes old fashioned with modern, fairy tale with a saga of sexual discovery. Maria's diary entries are so moving so you could go back and easily find all of the passages again. She was born and grew up in poor family in Brazilian village. Just as any innocent young girl would, she had also fallen in love but had to face disappointment at a young slender age. The novel's Maria learns of sex through masturbation, first as a child and later as an adolescent. When she loses her virginity (at 16 or 17), she finds self-sex more satisfying and heavenly than intercourse, although she forces her deflowerer to return and make love to her several more times. At a tender age, she becomes convinced that she will never find true love, instead believing that love is a terrible thing that make you suffer.

"Pain is frightening when it shows its real face, but it's seductive when it comes disguised as sacrifice or self-denial. Or cowardice. However much we may reject it, we human beings always find a way of being with pain, of flirting with it and making it part of our lives."

At 19, she takes a job at a draper's shop, strings her lovelorn boss along for raises while putting him off from her bed. Love only makes you suffer, so forget it. At 22 she goes to Rio de Janeiro for the first time, on a week's vacation. On the beach she meets a Swiss man who is recruiting dancers for his nightclub in Geneva. She signs a contract, gets an advance, arrives, begins dancing and earns barely enough to get along.

Facing disappointment, she writes in her diary, which is quoted throughout the book:

"I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It's all a question of how I view my life."

But in the end, guiltlessly, becomes a well-paid regular prostitute at Geneva's expensive Copacabana. Her experiences as a prostitute have been described in vivid detail and bring the reader close to Maria. Nevertheless, throughout her journey as a sex worker, she finds the ultimate truth about herself. She drifts further and further away from love while at the same time developing a fascination with sex. A chance meeting in a coffee shop brings her close to a famous painter called Ralf Hart who is also one of the elite clients at the Copacabana. Soon she realizes that she has found the true love of her life in Ralf Hart. However, at the same time her experiences with an elite client at the Copacabana leave her in a difficult situation. She develops a strong fascination for sex and at the same time she knows that life has given her a reason to live - Ralf Hart. Here is a woman who never finished secondary school or left rural Brazil until 22, and yet within nine months in Geneva is voraciously reading arcane books in French from the local library, where she holds sophisticated discussions with the resident librarian. Daily, she fills her diary with lofty abstractions.

She ends one entry:

"P.S. I have just re-read what I wrote. Good grief! I'm getting way too intellectual!"

The story evolves into an exploration of sadomasochism, in which nigh on magically, no one is damaged or distressed. Then, drawing on her books and the aging lady librarian, there is a clinical lecture on the physiology of sex.

Maria ends up being at cross-roads where she has to choose between a path that leads to no where - a path of dark sexual pleasures and a path that that gives a meaning to her life - a path that gives her what she never got - true love. In this novel, Paulo Coelho explores the sacred nature of sex and love and prejudices. The book nakely and deeply discuss what love and sex is and should be. Just read it and find the connection with divine...

Love from Sonia
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on 29 December 2007
Having loved Veronika decides to Die I had bought Eleven minutes and The Alchemist but unfortunately had never got around to reading them, until yesterday when recovering from a nasty flu&feeling slightly bored I decided to read Eleven minutes. That was it the minutes flew and before I knew it it was six thirty the next morning and I'd finished it. I could not put it down, another amazing book from an amazing writer. I love the fact that Coehlo can address the most nitty gritty of subjects with a tangible realism. Although his subject was sex it never felt like he was going too far he seemed to strike a perfect chord, even when re-telling the most degrading of Maria's sexual journeys. The honesty in which this book is written is beautiful you can truly relate to his character and understand that all she is searching for is love, yet a full love that revolves around an everday life. A closeness with someone that holds much more than just sex!. She takes us on a journey of honesty and we love her for that. She learns the true meaning of love in all its forms and makes us all think alittle about the difference between sex and making love. It is a gripping story with so many hidden meanings and as ever Paulo makes us question our own existence and indeed our own sexuality. Another inspirational piece of reading from the great Paulo Coelho. The Alchamest here I come!
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VINE VOICEon 1 October 2008
This must be a contender for the worst book I've ever read. I read 'The Alchemist' by the same author largely because it appeared in the 'BBC 100 favourite reads' poll and was described as 'life changing'. I didn't like it, but thought this may just be due to the fact that the story is a cross between a parable and a self-help book, and decided to give Coelho another go. I shouldn't have bothered!
The story here is of a naive young Brazilian girl wanting to make some money by travelling to Switzerland ostensibly as a dancer, but soon becomes involved in prostitution. It's full of unbelievable scenarios and characters, some of which are frankly risible, mixed with a generous dose of half-baked adolescent philosophy. The heroine moves from an abortive S&M encounter to embracing it with full gusto in the blink of an eye after a brief walk along Lake Geneva, before finding her true love. The ridiculously cheesey ending had me reaching for a brown paper bag.
The writing style is very simple (translated from Portugese), and makes it easy to read, although lacking in depth. Thankfully it's short.
I'm amazed anyone could give this 5 stars!
Oh, .....did I mention I didn't like it??
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This was my introduction to Paulo Coelho, and what a start - this is a beautifully written story despite the debatable subject matter and is tasteful at all times. The author manages to cover such topics as sexual abuse and sado-masochism yet retain an aura of eloquence at all times. Now, that's style.
I read some great books in 2004, titles that stand out a year later include The Alchemist (also by Coelho), Vernon God Little, Retribution, The Da Vinci Code (sorry), The Vanished Man and The Life of Pi, but if I were to compile a personal top ten list, Eleven Minutes would be at the top. It's one of those stories that I keep thinking about and remembering, many months after I turned the final page, and few books have left impressions like that on me. Come to think about it, Eleven Minutes is one of the most memorable books I have read throughout my not-so-young life.
I have noticed quite a few negative comments here, it's disappointing but one thing I must say in the writer's defence is that he is one of the most successful living authors anywhere, I believe he has sold more than 25 million worldwide. Coelho is an artist and an inspiration not only to his readers, but to other writers as well. Add it to your library, and if you don't like it I'll buy it off you and read it again!
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on 15 December 2003
Agreed with some reviewers that it wasn't my absolute favo(u)rite among Paulo's books, however I felt that I have picked up the book at the right time, because for some reason this book was more relevant to my own life than any of his previous ones, even if my occupation/trade is a far cry from prostitution. People have a way of saying things to me just at the time that I need to hear their words, and Paulo Coelho is no different.
I think that some readers hold up a red flag when they start to find words that are stereotypically cliche' in their eyes. As though stories on the subject of sex are supposed to be reserved for only the low-ranking authors and authors who have fallen down the hill.
I think such readers are doing themselves a disservice by holding a blind eye based on the apparent subject matter. I don't read Paulo's books with any sort of expectation or internal standard, though I can't deny there's always a bit of hope that I'll gain something from the story. In this case, I did.
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on 28 June 2005
This book promised so much: an exploration of the line drawn between sex and love, illustrated by the story of a prostitute - surely one of the most important current issues of our society. I bought the book eagerly, preparing for Coelho to blast away all of our long-held confusions and misconceptions about sex, and to illuminate us with the truth of how it can be "sacred."
The first few chapters in which the story of Maria's childhood and emotional development unravel were, for me, believeable and moving, and I was thrilled to be able to relate to, and believe in, the lead character. I felt compelled to read on and learn about her fate as a prostitute.
Coelho's concept was fantastic, and his development of Maria and her inner life was sensitive and realistic, but I felt as soon as she met this "mystery painter" who would show her the sacredness of sex, the book rapidly went downhill. He was supposed to be the symbol of truth and love in this book, so why did I take an immediate dislike to him and find him superficial, lacking in character, arrogant and utterly unbelievable? It was difficult to gain anything from the book after this point, as I found him unbelievable, his relationship with Maria unbelievable, and any profound experiences of love that they shared totally unbelievable. I began to get so irritated with the rest of the story that I mentally compiled a very extensive list of "things which annoy me". My final feeling was that not only had Coelho failed to enlighten the reader as to the meaning of "sacred sex" but he had also snatched such an original and promising subject matter from the hands of another writer who might actually provide real insight.
I ended up not only deflated but also angry that a book dealing with such a delicate and sacred subject matter could fall so far off the mark. Get this book, if the theme interests you; you will either love it and be moved, or you will be moved, like I am, to attempt to write a better version.
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on 7 August 2012
Maria is a young woman that desperately wants to find love and be loved but has no idea how to make this a reality. As Maria enters womanhood, she learns life and love are full of risks and choices. She finds herself in precarious situations and satiates her curiosity while trying to find her true essence. As her journey continues she discovers and comes to term with her sexuality and has a better understanding of the woman she is and the woman she could be. Maria has held herself hostage for so long she has to break down the walls so she can find happiness and fight off loneliness her walls have caused her. You witness Maria's fears subside as she metamorphoses into a woman that surrenders and embraces herself and all that life has to offer. Maria learns that life's foundation is based on risks and choices.

This was an ok book. I feel for Coelho, tough to follow The Alchemist - in my opinion, everything seems to fail in comparison.

Maria was more than a prostitute. The story was more than the sexual nature if you initially perused the pages. The book was really about self enlightenment and that life as a whole is about risks and choices.

Add this to your TBR list and see what you discover after reading its entirety.
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