Someone said, don’t judge a book by its cover, but no one said anything about judging a book by its title. Veronika Decides To Die is a quirky title, which pulls you in enough to pick up the book and start reading.
When you pick a book written by Paulo Coelho, you already have high hopes and Veronika Decides To Die has you hooked the moment you lay your eyes on it. Thankfully, what’s inside the book doesn’t disappoint either.
From alchemy to adultery, the author has a knack for dealing with sensitive subjects. This time he kills two birds with one stone. The author gives an insight into the metaphysical concept of astral projection and, at the same time, deals with a subject that is very personal to him–madness.
He takes the readers into a mental asylum and inside the heads of the ‘so called’ mad men through the eyes of a girl, Veronika, the protagonist. The book starts out dramatically as Veronika sits with ‘four packs of sleeping pills’. Ten pages into the book, Veronika attempts suicide. It shocks.
Not many can maintain the pace after this, but Coelho does it brilliantly. The reader is effortlessly taken into the realms of Sufism, astral travel, psychiatry, metaphysics and a storyline that ties it all together–the girl who tries to die.
Veronika is relatable. She imbibes every quality and vice of the 21st century generation. Smart, beautiful, literate but dreadfully bored of her monotonous life, Veronika has little insight into herself, building walls around her and developing a fake persona instead, to gain society’s approval. Predictably, she believes that life is only going to get worse as she ages.
Throughout the narrative, the lines between madness and normal behaviour are blurred and both terms and their meanings are often used interchangeably. The other characters–which could have done with some more detailing–add to the narrative as Coelho tries to capture the human tendency of apathy and powerlessness. The rendition is powerful and can make the reader question ‘what exactly is normal behaviour. In fact, the readers might just find themselves advocating madness at times.
The book that starts out considerably morbid has an uplifting ending which is so subtle that it almost sneaks up to you.
Veronika Decides to Die promises too much. The best part is–it delivers.