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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: Adultery by Paulo Coelho


Paulo Coelho comes to me well-recommended.  I'm told The Alchemist is a life-changing book and Aleph is captivating.  Maybe I should have started with one of those.

I can't say I loved Adultery.  It wasn't terrible, and this is a virtue of Paulo Coelho being everything as a writer I was told he would be.  His style is accessible and conversational.  You can blow through large chunks of text while sipping a coffee or a beer and you're never left grasping at what happened.  However this story, while well told, wasn't terribly compelling.

Adultery is the running inner monologue of a woman in her 30's who has everything she can ask for -- perfect children, a husband who adores her, a fulfilling career, the ability to flit about the world at a whim -- and yet is terribly unhappy, largely because she chooses to be.  She inexplicably one day blows a politician (who happens to be the ex-boyfriend from high school that she was so into that she fantasized about him constantly through her adolescence), and that kick-starts a vicious cycle self-hatred and bad decision-making, all while her doting husband tries desperately to help her find her way of whatever depression and melancholy she happens to be in.

I find characters who do the  super-entitled pity party ("woe is me, I have everything) to be grating, especially when they narrate the story, as in Adultery and  Douglas Brunt's Ghosts of Manhattan. It's hard to empathize with them as a reader because for me at least, it's impossible to understand them, especially when at the end, they haven't changed very much because their lives are so insular, so perfect, they're not required to.  Adultery's narrator, Linda, almost ruins two marriages -- her own and her lover's -- and never has to face the consequences. She's spared the humbling embarrassment of having to say she cheated, while putting her lover in a position to lie to his wife's face.  At the end of the day, her relationship with her husband somehow ends up stronger because she realizes that she has it all and decides it's not a prison.  I mean... come on.  Reading this calls up some advice my dad once gave me: the worst thing you can give a woman is everything she wants.

I will say this: Paulo Coelho's style is everything it's cracked up to be.

Pros: Easy Read, crackling style
Cons: Whiny narrator, no significant character change at the end.

2 out of 5 stars.

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