I finished reading Veronika Decides to Die (link contains spoilers) last night. It was to be my last time reading Coelho if it disappointed me because I hated The Alchemist so much, I swore I would never read anything from him again. My expectations were very low, to say the least, so I’d nothing to lose. And I really enjoyed, it as it happens.
Veronika, a young girl who has everything to live for (it seems), decides to take her own life. Her attempt is unsuccessful and she’s told that while she survived, the damage to her heart is irreparable and she will only live for a short while. She’s to spend the rest of her days in a mental institution, Vilette, which is a treatment centre for the ill and a refuge for the scared. When she’s in Vilette, she affects the lives of the other patients in ways neither she nor they expect, and discovers a whole new side to her world when she allows herself to do things she’s never done before. She realises that in dying, she’s free and that she can do as she pleases; in doing so, she finds a happiness she’s never had before.
Veronika is one of the sweetest female protagonists I’ve read in a while: she’s honest and sincere and expressive and very easy to love. I couldn’t identify with her, per se, and I dare say that that’s a good thing, but I certainly enjoyed reading about her. The other ‘patients’ in the hospital are equally engaging, and just as damaged as Veronika. Even the head psychiatrist, who employs questionable rehabilitative methods, isn’t someone you could really dislike. In all, they provide an intriguing group to spend some time with, and I was sorry to see them go when I finished.
Coelho delivered his usual message about the meaning of life, etc., but I preferred to concentrate on enjoying his characters. There’s hope for him yet, I think, although I might leave it a while until I read something else from him. I don’t want Veronika ruined for me just yet.
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Tomorrow’s going to be all manner of impossible and frustrating. I have five different things to attend/ people to see in between ten and half three, and aside from lunch with a friend, I can’t be bothered with any of them.