Who hasn’t heard of Paulo Coelho? His Alchemist ensured that it gave hope to generations of jaded people and the dreamers something to look to the Universe for. In fact, the ‘when you want something bad enough, the whole Universe conspires to give it to you’ (or a better sounding version of it) has become something of a dictum that’s been reproduced in various forms everywhere.
But I would have to admit it’s not the most memorable Paulo Coelho I’ve read. That would have to be this one; followed closely by The Devil and Miss Prym.
In fact, Veronika Decides to Die resonated so closely with me that for a while I went around insisting that all and sundry read it. And hence this revisit (How could I resist a larger audience :D)
The book tells the story of Veronika who despite, on the face of it, having it all decides to die. Well, to be specific, she decides to die because she has it all and truly believes her life’s never going to get better than it was at that moment, if, that is, she can be said to have a reason at all. However, it is the reason she chooses to write in her suicide note, if you please, that ends in her landing up in a mental asylum after surviving her botched up attempt. Not one to give in to minor setbacks, Veronika decides to try and try until she succeeds. But she had not accounted for the mental asylum and the magical world that existed between its four walls.
And that is where the story truly begins as Veronika discovers the layer on layer that life hides, particularly when seen through the eyes of a mad person, so to speak. She meets people who choose to continue living in the asylum, fooling those apparently in the know, simply because of the freedom that comes with being labelled mad. And that, notwithstanding Veronika’s other adventures which include falling in love with a schizophrenic and the eventual dawning of regret, was my favourite part of the book.
How we let society decide for us what’s normal and what’s not and what’s the right way for a person to be. And the freedom that comes from discounted expectations. Suddenly because people believe you to be mad and expect you to behave accordingly, all your idiosyncrasies are discounted as the ravings of madness. Why do we try so hard to mold and bend and beat people to our will and our perceptions? While I’m all in favour of social order, is it worthwhile to stamp out all traces of individuality for that?
I’d definitely give this book a 5 and suggest you pick it up at least once!