Monday, 21 November 2011

Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho

Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho
First published by HarperCollins in 1999 (this edition by HarperCollins in 2009)

Description (from Goodreads)

Twenty-three-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for. She goes to popular night spots, dates attractive men, and has a caring family. Yet something is lacking in her life. So on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die.After she awakens from an overdose, Veronika finds she has only days to live. The story follows Veronika through those intense days as, to her own surprise, she finds herself drawn into the enclosed world of the local hospital she is staying in. In this heightened state she experiences things she has never allowed herself to feel: hatred, fear, curiosity, love, and sexual awakening. Gradually she discovers that every second of her existence is a choice between living and dying. Paulo Coelho's Veronika Decides to Die, based on his own moving personal experience, is about people who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. It is about madness and the need to find an alternative way of living for people who face prejudices because they think in a different way. InVeronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho invites the reader to discover the world that lies outside the routine and addresses the fundamental question asked by millions: what am I doing here today?" and "why do I go on living?"

My thoughts
Veronika Decides To Die is the first book by Paulo Coelho that I have ever read. Though we have had a number of his books in our house for ages (my brother went through a Coelho phase a few years ago), I had never really felt the urge to read one of them. Until I decided it was finally the time to give one of them a try. Even though Paulo Coelho is more well known for his book "The Alchemist", it was VDTD that I decided to try first, because I rather liked the sound of the story.

At the beginning of this book, Veronika attempts to kill herself with an overdose of pills. It's not that she is unhappy; it's that she's not really happy that leads her to make that decision. That she doesn't really have anything worth living for; that her life is devoid of meaning. She just did the same thing every day, that she just reached that point where she knew exactly where she would be at what time the next day. No deviation from the norm. But Veronika does not die. Instead when she wakes up, she finds herself in a mental hospital, the infamous "Villette", where she is told that the pills she overdosed on caused very serious damage to her heart and that she probably would only live for a week at most.

At the beginning of that week, Veronika just feels as if she has been cheated. She wanted to die, but was unsuccessful in the attempt. She doesn't like the fact that she doesn't get the chance to decide when she dies (like she did with her suicide attempt); that her heart will just fail her at any time. After a couple of days of not wanting to accept the fact that she is not dead, she starts associating with the other "tenants" of Villete. Each one of them has their own story of how they ended up there and each one of them influences Veronika in their own way.

Though Veronika Decides To Die was a great story, I didn't find myself completely swept away by it. A lot of my friends read Coelho when I was still in school and they all thought it was weird that I hadn't tried reading one of his books. Now that I have, I do recognise the appeal, but not so much as to say "Now, why didn't I read this years ago?". I did like his style of writing, so I am definitely going to be reading something else by Coelho (after all, we do have quite a few of his books!) I really liked how he dealed with the psychological aspect of the whole story and I liked his choice of characters. Each one of them brought his/her own to the story: craziness (from somewhere you don't expect), disappointment, hope, even love.

And, to end this review, a quote that I loved:
“Be like the fountain that overflows, not like the cistern that merely contains.” 

Rating: 7/10

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author, born in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro. He worked as a theatre director, an actor, a lyricist and a journalist, before finally becoming an author. He has written many books which have been translated into many languages. Some of those include The Alchemist, Brida, The Devil and Miss Prym, The Witch of Portobello and, his latest, The Winner Stands Alone.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011


  1. This is my faveorite book of his :) There is also a movie based on this book with Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Veronica. It's beautiful.

  2. I've never read anything by Coelho but having read a few blurbs over the years they do sound very interesting - this one in particular. I'll have to see if my sixth form library has a copy for me try.

    Lovely review :)

  3. This book brings us the thought that our lives are worth everything, worth fighting for, though all the indifference forces us to behave as society marks us. And i found i was asking myself why would people wish to treat their life's as if they were the only one. The only soul in this world with sorrows, just look at all those humans out there with no choice of a future at all.


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