Customer Reviews: Veronika Decides to Die: A Novel of Redemption
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on May 20, 2002
I am not surprised that �Veronika decides to die� is an international bestseller. It is written by Paulo Coelho, who was born in Brazil.
This book has definitely inspired and/or changed the lives of many people out there. It is a book that will make you think, appreciate life.
It was my first experience of Paulo Coelho and it has made me to read more. He has a gift for writing books, which changes the way you think about life in general. That book is undoubtedly a phenomenon. I really enjoyed reading this satisfying book. I found the story quite gripping. It is a wonderful although bizarre declaration of love to all mad people in our world and to the life itself. The book really touched me very deeply. Paulo Coelho tells from elementary experiences and the readers recognize themselves: with their frailties and fears and also with their yearnings and dreams.
Short summary of �Veronika decides to die�:
Veronika has everything she could wish for. She is young and pretty, with plenty of attractive boyfriends. She has a steady job and a loving family. Yet Veronika is not happy and one winter�s morning she takes an overdose of sleeping pills, only to wake up some time later in a local mental hospital. There she is told that although she is alive, her heart is now irreparably damaged and she has only a few days to live. First Veronika feels a tiny bit happy about that message. Then she begins to think about her life.
This story follows her through these intense days as she starts to question all her ideas about life. Soon she comes to realize that every second of existence is a choice we all make between living and dying.
The way it alters her way of thinking and seeing the world. How she starts to question everything around her and also her own mortality. The way Veronika explores her life is inspirational.
It obviously shows us how often we don�t know what we have until it is too late.
In addition to its messages, �Veronika decides to die� offers an interesting insight into how people deal with mental illness.
A review of this novel would not be complete without mentioning the doctor, the ambitious psychiatrist with his eyes on alternative techniques and methods. He is a central character in the plot of this book, although you don�t actually see a great deal of him. At this point I don�t want to write much more about that book. I don�t want to ruin it for those people, who have not read this great book yet.
In conclusion may I say that it is a moving and uplifting song of life, one that reminds us that every moment in our lives is special and precious. Paulo Coelho is a wonderful storyteller with the power to inspire nations and change people�s lives.
I can highly recommend to read this and/or other books of Paulo Coelho.
An excellent novel! A must read for all!
It has changed my way of thinking. I am sure that it will change also your way of thinking!
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on August 30, 2000
I am great fan of Coelho's and absolutely love his books and the messages that they impart. This is the third book of his that I have read and I found his latest book to be no different! This is an excellent book - it will have you questioning your own life and the value that you do or don't place on it.
As some of the reviewers have said - this is a book about life and not about death and I could not agree more. After an unsuccessful attempt at suicide, Veronika awakens in a mental hospital with a grim death sentence hanging over her head of only having five days left to live. Her conformist way of life, her mediocrity, her stifled creativity, as well as her unwillingness to take risks or challenges, are all brought into the limelight for the reader to "feel". The reader experiences many emotions on Veronika's journey during the remaining five days of her life. We are treated to what her dream "would have been" if she followed her heart and allowed her emotions and passions to shine through.
Veronika's five-day metamorphosis is in effect her rebirth into life. She allows her buried feelings, passions and creativity to surface and to be acknowledged. Her brief stay also influences other patients in the hospital, as they too undergo their own rebirth into the joy of living.
The ending of this tale will come as a surprise to some readers, to others maybe not. Nonetheless, this book is excellent and will re-confirm to the reader just how precious, joyous and love-filled life is. This book also brings home many messages, the most important one being - life is what you make it - it is your choice and your choice alone - one can either live life to the fullest or be a walking zombie as Veronika was.
I thoroughly recommend this book as another inspiring and thought provoking book by Paulo Coelho. I very much look forward to his next book.
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on August 27, 2003
The first part of Veronika Decides to Die is a bleak journey into the head of the fatalistic young woman who gives the book its name. Author Paulo Coelho does a good job here of describing the mindset that would lead someone to suicide, and in setting the stage for Veronika's rebirth in the later parts of the book. Really understanding the book, I think, requires understanding this part.
But understanding Mr. Coelho requires understanding the rest of the story.
There is a simple beauty to Mr. Coelho's style, in evidence as he describes Veronika's ascent from the depths of her private purgatory to her return to her place among the living. This evolution in Veronika is the crux of the book and it illustrates Mr. Coelho's strengths and weaknesses as a storyteller: his ideas are fresh and original and his sense of plot of solid. But his techniques as a writer, his dialogues, his pacing, are weak.
To be sure, Mr. Coelho's ideas are the cornerstones of his legion fan base. The ideas are not only visible in this book when it comes to Veronika's rebirth but also in interesting but minor parts of the story. One of my favorites was when Mari -- an antagonist to Veronika, a lawyer, and a fellow patient at the Villete hospital where most of the story takes place -- muses about how she would defend Adam in the eyes of God for the role he played in the Fall of Man. I also enjoyed the metaphor from Zedka -- another patient -- about the king and queen who rules a kingdom of mad people and how they reacted.
But I quarrel with Mr. Coelho's development of characters, and especially with his choice of dialogue. Veronika, notwithstanding her epic journey from being suicidal to becoming essentially optimistic, can seem almost two-dimensional in the sense that she seems to evolve on her own, like a self-contained universe. And events are too pat: witness Eduard, who may have been pretending to be a schizophrenic waiting for the off chance that someone like Veronika would come along.
The dialogue is similarly contrived. Open the book to any page and read out loud what is between quotation marks and it will probably seem artificial. People do not talk that way -- especially when they are talking to themselves, which is often the case here. I also wonder why Mr. Coelho chose to put certain dialogue -- things like "yes, I will" or "sometimes I do," which would normally be added to the narration in the form of paraphrase -- in quotations when they add almost nothing to the characters' development.
I have friends who are big fans of Mr. Coelho's work and they tell me that these unconventional characteristics add to the other-worldliness of the author's stories. I can see how that might work, but I cannot help but feel that they simply make the story less effective, that they dull the edge of what could be sharply original and important story rather than one that is merely good.
Despite that, I will say that if you are reading these reviews because you are undecided about whether or not to read Mr. Coelho's books, I would encourage you to do so and to start with Veronika Decides to Die. In spite of its imperfections, it is a quick and enjoyable read and probably the best point of entry to the collection of work from a writer who has enjoyed phenomenal success worldwide. As I have stated, I do not believe this is a book without flaw, but I cannot be so critical as to say the story is also without value. Read it, and decide for yourself how far the scale tips one way or the other.
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on October 1, 2001
I just finished this book. I am almost at a loss for words.
This poignant novel tells the story of a young woman named Veronika who seems to have everything: beauty, a loving family, a good job, etc. However she feels empty inside, wondering what the purpose of life may be if things will just go downhill from then on. Thus she decides to end her life, cleanly and quietly.
Yet she does not succeed. She awakens sometime later in a mental hospital, Villete, and is told she only has days to live, as her attempt left unreparable damage on her heart.
She attempts to find ways to end her life more quickly while trapped in Villete, but ends up finding LIFE instead. With a death sentence creeping up on her, she battles inwardly between her previous wish to die, and her current fascination and discovery of life.
We all know how we are "supposed" to live, the rules and regulations that we abide by each and every day without even realizing it. Is this living? Paulo Coelho addresses this question brilliantly. Veronika's lesson is one that should be heeded by all. Unforunately it seems that those who truly live their own lives will instead be deemed "insane" or "crazy" by the law-abiding people surround them. What is life? Who can define another's choices, characteristics, and temperments? If a CEO decides not to wear a tie to work anymore, because he says it is stupid to nearly choke on a piece of fabric for ten hours everyday, who is to decide if he is crazy or not?
These questions and more like them will invade your thoughts after reading "Veronika Decides to Die". I strongly urge young and old, male and female, directed and hopeless, to read this book. I think we can all use a little insight into life.
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on January 21, 2006
I have read several of this authors' books, and yet it still amazes me how he is able to thread important insights into REALLY interesting story lines - making his books of fiction ones that we can all learn something from...

Don't be misled by the title "Veronika Decides to Die" - although this is definitely an important part of the story, a greater part has to do with choosing to live - making the deliberate choice to really LIVE each day, as opposed to just existing..

This book is also about the impact each of us have on everyone we meet - whether we realize it or not - and that this impact can be positive or negative, our choice.

Another REALLY important aspect was how we as a society determine what we consider "normal" & "abnormal", and how this impacts us personally, as well as how it impacts how we view others. It's truly amazing how quickly we humans change what we deem as "normal" & "okay" - and it is equally amazing how important it is to many of us to "fit in", to be a part of the majority, even if this means denying who we are & what feels right to us...

Overall, I would highly recommend it to those who enjoy "stories with a lesson" - you won't be disappointed!
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on June 19, 2000
Having been recommended this book by a good friend of mine, who knew me as a lost young person in this world, I read the book not only to feel excited but also had a renewed outlook on life. There were many points in the book that still stick in my mind ever so clearly as if I had read it yesterday. But Paulo Coelho wrote that book in a way that made me say, 'yeah, how did he hit the nail so precisely?' Reading some passages gave me shivers because Paulo was so right.
Many times, we tend to hold back on questioning or spilling our brains out for the sake of pleasing others because they would thing that we are crazy for asking such question. However, I have learnt a valuable lesson through this book - that is to be mad (mad in a good way)once in awhile. To do things once in awhile that we might not otherwise do and may never repeat but something that makes people say, 'He/She is MAD!'. Through this book also, I have come to realize that being myself and portraying the real me in a world filled with people who are extremely afraid to show their real feelings and expressions, is OK. I can be myself and be different and not feel as though it is a grave sin to be ME. - "Is Wanting to be different a serious illness?.....It is if you force yourself to be same as everyone else: it causes neuroses, pschoses and paranoia. It's a distortion of nature, it goes against God's laws, for in all the world's woods and forests, He did not create a single leaf the same as another." p. 153
Paulo Coelho wrote it so well that I have come to conclude: You only live once. Therefore, enjoy life to the fullest!
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VINE VOICEon February 23, 2003
When Veronika decides to commit suicide it is not from profound depression but from boredom and emptiness. When she wakes up from her overdose she finds herself in an old fashioned literary "asylum" where the treatments are--to say the least--unorthodox. There she learns that she has damaged her heart and will in fact die in little more than a week. And from there, the parable unfolds.
Faced with the real possibility of death, Veronika begins to appreciate life. The author develops his theme artfully. Follow your vision, he says, live in the moment, make the most of your fleeting time. Do not waste your life trying to meet the expectations of others, but do what you have always dreamed of doing.
Unfortunately the author is just a bit heavy-handed in making these points. The story of Veronika's commitment to a mental hospital is a very personal issue with author Coelho--indeed he himself makes a brief appearance in the story to underline this point. I wish he had been more subtle and let the readers draw their own conclusions. Still, the book is readable, lucid and charming. I recommend it. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber
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on August 13, 2000
At the end of this novel the reader is given the gift of a second chance at life, but only if the reader dares to defy conformity and live according to their heart's passion, assuming of course that the heart has a recognizable passion. That's the catch. If you are satisfied with your own mediocrity then I don't recommend reading this because you might just find yourself identifying with Veronika, who never dared to take any real chances or go against the flow, one day after another being that of mundane existence. You may in fact find yourself quite jealous of Veronika's remarkable foresight when she analyzed the reasons for not finishing her life, and then for having the calm courage to end her life of monotonous conformity.
This book challenges you to examine the value of your own life, and the cost of sacrificing whatever it is that is unusual about you for the sake of acceptance by others. If you aren't afraid of holding up a mirror to yourself then read away, and enjoy the spiritual jewels the authors lays at your feet.
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on July 16, 2001
Besides my noggin' being a little sore from being hit over the head so many times with the "Life is beautiful" theme of this richly drawn fable, I don't have any complaints about this book. Coelho paints a convincing story of Veronika as a disaffected young woman to whom life is a hopeless grind. Her attemted suicide gives the author an additional opportunity to comment on the definition of mental health and the appropriateness of how the "insane" are treated. Along the way, we're introduced to a variety of patients (and a curious doctor) who help us learn, over and over again, that our time here is precious and not to be squandered hiding from reality or standing on the sidelines. Like other good fables, the Coelho's writing here is magical and clear. Likewise, it's translation to English doesn't seem to affect its lyrical tone at all. I wasn't surprised by too much that happened in the book, but I don't feel that I was supposed to be. It's an age old tale with a timeless moral. I wouldn't go so far as to define this book as a wake-up call, but it's a nice refresher on the beauty of life with some interesting social thought regarding treatment of the mentally ill worked in as a bonus.
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on September 1, 2000
It is said that real masters can use very little and accomplish a lot; so is the case once again with P.Coelho. His previous books, simple in story and frienly in language, nonetheless grabs hold of the reader with all-important themes that are SO forgotten in this day and age: to reach for a dream, to fight for a goal, to LIVE life. How can we even live without dreams? These are simple enough ideas, and in 'Veronica Decides To Die', they are delightfully presented once again, without excess plot twists or complex characters. Those who find Coelho's books too simple or boring have been watchig TV too long, always expecting the big Hollywood explosions or the naked bodies to get their attention. Society has grown numb to the beauty in simplicity. It is refreshing also to remember that geniuses and innovators are always considered crazy or non-conformant to society. Beautiful! We should all act crazy more often, ignore the naysayers and take bold chances. Thank You Paulo Coelho!
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