Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho

Title: Veronika Decides To Die
Author: Paulo Coelho
Series: On the Seventh Day, #2
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: September 30th, 1999
This edition: 2000
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Read from December 19 to 25, 2011
My rating: 2 stars: Nothing special
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository 
Summary: Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for—: youth and beauty, pleny of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So, on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. Naturally Veronika is stunned when she does wake up— at Villete, a local mental hospital, where the staff informs her that she has, in fact, partially succeeded in achieving her goal. While the overdose didn't kill Veronika immediately, the medication has damaged her heart so severely that she has only days to live.


Although previously infuriated by Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, I decided to give Coelho another chance. While it's right to say that I didn't hate this book as much, it didn't impress me either. It was just plain okay. And it bored me. 

Veronika is a 24-year-old pretty girl. She decides to die because 1) she feels like life has nothing more to offer her. She's tired of the same things happening daily, doing the same things daily, with nothing new in her life, and 2) she realizes that one day she will be old and she doesn't want to be old. That day she overdoses on sleeping pills, expecting to die. Unfortunately, she is sent to Villete, an asylum, in time to be saved. Temporarily. The doctor, Dr Igor, tells her that she only has days to live because the pills somehow managed to damage her heart. 

During her stay at Villete, she gets to know some people in there. She makes some friends and plays the piano and falls in love. Then the thought creeps in, from time to time, despite her trying to push it far away, whether she still wants to live, now that there are new things in her life and life doesn't seem so empty anymore. 

In the first few chapters, Paulo Coelho wrote about himself as Dr Igor's daughter's friend. I'm not sure whether he implies or says it outright that he was also sent to a mental hospital because he wanted to be an artist (or writer I'm not sure) and therefore his parents thought he was mad. That's what I understood. So while this book is about the value of life in the face of imminent death, it also questions the way people judge 'madness'. 

I really did want to like this but sadly Coelho failed me again. The translated text flows well enough, the story sounds promising. The main problem with this book for me is the way Coelho wrote it. I didn't like that he put himself in the story, because it didn't relate to anything in it. It just looks out of place and comes out of nowhere. I also didn't like it because the story was just so boring. I mean, it's nothingness. I didn't care about any of the characters. Veronika decides to die, well, that was interesting. But all that follows is all her interactions with people in Villete and stories of some patients' lives. It bored the hell out of me. And it didn't make me feel like life is so great, either. 

And don't even get me started on THE ENDING. Oh dear Lord. It was terrible. In the end, it's revealed that Dr Igor lied to Veronika when he said she had only days to live. In fact, there was nothing wrong with her heart at all. She was perfectly fine and healthy. He only wanted to know whether life becomes more valuable knowing that death is imminent. It's like the author wanted to force a happy ending (she didn't have to die in 7 days) into a story that's built to end with what it promised: death. The idea that a doctor uses an innocent patient as a guinea pig for his personal experiment in hope to be famous for it one day is SICKENING. He didn't even tell her. She lived her life expecting death. It's just so wrong on so many levels. This is one of the reasons why I didn't like this book. 

All in all, disappointment. Nothingness in the form of 208 pages.


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

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