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Veronika Decides To Die [Paperback]

Paulo Coelho
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 26 2001

Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything -- youth and beauty, boyfriends and a loving family, a fulfilling job. But something is missing in her life. So, one cold November morning Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. But she does -- at a mental hospital where she is told that she has only days to live.

This poignant international bestseller by the author of The Alchemist takes readers on a quest to find meaning in a culture overshadowed by angst, soulless routine, and pervasive conformity. Based on events in Coelho's own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Bold and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.

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From Amazon

When Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist) was a young man, his parents had him committed to mental hospitals three times because he wanted to be an artist--an unacceptable profession in Brazil at the time. During his numerous forced incarcerations he vowed to write some day about his experiences and the injustices of involuntary commitment. In this fable-like novel, Coelho makes good on his promise, with the creation of a fictional character named Veronika who decides to kill herself when faced with all that is wrong with the world and how powerless she feels to change anything. Although she survives her initial suicide attempt, she is committed to a mental hospital where she begins to wrestle with the meaning of mental illness and whether forced drugging should be inflicted on patients who don't fit into the narrow definition of "normal." The strength and tragedy of Veronika's fictional story was instrumental in passing new government regulations in Brazil that have made it more difficult to have a person involuntarily committed. Like any great storyteller, Coelho has used the realm of fiction to magically infiltrate and alter the realm of reality. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The bestselling Brazilian author of The Alchemist delicately etches this morose but ultimately uplifting story of the suicidal Veronika, who creeps along the boundary between life and death, sanity and madness, happiness and despair. Veronika, 24, works in a library in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and rents a room in a convent; she is an attractive woman with friends and family, but feelings of powerlessness and apathy tempt her to find "freedom" in an overdose of sleeping pills. When Veronika awakens in the purgatory of Villete, the country's famous lunatic asylum, she is told her suicide attempt weakened her heart and she has only days to live. At this point, Coelho takes a role in the novel; he describes the circumstances under which he discovered Veronika's story and then recounts his own youthful incarceration in a Brazilian sanatorium, consigned there by parents who couldn't understand his "unusual behavior." As quickly as he drops in, however, he drops out again, relying on interior monologues to set scenes. In a sedative-induced haze, Veronika finds companionship in white-haired Mari, who suffers from panic attacks, and Eduard, an ambassador's son who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, and she begins to question the definition of insanity. It is her supposed death sentence from the devious Dr. Igor, who is trying to shock her back into reality, that allows Veronika to reacquire the will to live and love. Employing his trademark blend of religious and philosophical overtones, Coelho focuses on his central question: why do people go on when life seems unfair and fate indifferent? The simple, often banal prose contrasts Veronika's bleak inner landscape with the beautiful contours of Slovenia, gradually culminating in an upbeat ending with the message that each day of life is a miracle. Coelho's latest will appeal to readers who enjoy animated homilies about the worth of human existence.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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SHE PICKED up the four packs of sleeping pills from her bedside table. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inpiring, but still overrated !! March 3 2004
Ok I'll start with the pros, then I'll lash out the cons at the end.....first of all, I do think the plot of "Veronika Decides to Die" is intriguing and original (a young woman suffers a failed suicide attempt and lands in a mental hospital, suspended somewhere between life and death, believing her days to be limited due to irreversible heart failure and acting upon this belief. During her stay at the hospital, her closeness to death renews in her an appreciation of the life she had attempted to take away. Through her exchanges with her inmates, she learns about love, madness, dreams, freedom and the need to break free from self-imposed inhibitions and social "norms." Here, some interesting questions are raised in the novel...what IS the "norm"? why does society fear that which is different/erratic/new? why is being "different" considered a kind of madness? and who is madder....those who live as they please or those who destroy their dreams and limit their potential in order to conform?
The intended message is inspiring and beautiful .. one must discover the true value of life, the richness with with it can be lived, the meaning of living it. We should not be apathetic and resigned to the dull norms, instead we should savor every mad moment, every whim, every impulse we long as we do not cause destruction to those around us....sing in the rain, climb a mountain, paint, dance, laugh with the joy of life and living, unleash the individual within you and cry, scream, go out and follow your dream. It is an inspiring approach to our existence and the book answers to a modern-day malaise inflicting thousands of people world wide: boredom/apathy/depression.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Fall of Man Aug. 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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Substandard Jan. 30 2002
Plenty of writers have examined clinical psychology and the people who practice it, challenging the standards of sanity, the therapies, and the operation of mental institutions. And most of their books are a lot better than Veronika Decides to Die. Paulo Coelho doesn't really add anything to what's already been said on the subject.
Granted, this is the only work of Coelho's that I've read, and I'm reading it in translation, so I may not be getting the full effect. But so far as I can tell, this book is a series of serious missteps interspersed with only minor displays of skill.
I'm ceding it two stars because it's brief and simple, but that's the best thing I can think of to say about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who is really insane Feb. 6 2004
I think that many people think that the people is insane just because they are in their own world, I know that many people suffer of sever head problems, but many of them are just different from us and we think that they have to be at the hospital, as is written in the book, how many times you wanted to do something different and you didn't just because of the people? How many times you did what you wanted to do no matter the people? The difference to do anything different and not going to the hospital is not hurting anybody, even yourself.
This is a very easy and fast book to read I recommend this book in a long flight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lifeless March 2 2002
It seems that most people reviewing this book are reviewing the message ("Life is good") rather than the book. Sure, the moral of the story makes you feel good, but that doesn't mean that the book is well done; in fact, the novel itself is weak. The story goes nowhere, the characters are as dead as Veronika wishes to be, and the ending is obvious from the beginning. Maybe it reads better in Portugese, but this one left me colder than the Slovenian winter.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have ever read
It is so inspirational and it deals with an issue that many authors have stayed away from.
Incredible, Incredible read. I would read it over again.
Published 2 months ago by Jessica Boissonneault
2.0 out of 5 stars Awful Read, Huge Disappointment
A friend of mine had suggested I read this, and based on the reviews I saw on here it seemed like a good bet. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2011 by Tony (Toronto)
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book!
Failing to successfully take her own life, Veronika wakes to discover she is nonetheless dying, with very little time left to her - except that now, she will finally learn to... Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2009 by Why Not
5.0 out of 5 stars An Educated Opinion
A profound novel revolving around a deceptively simple theme.

I'm not really sure why I'm commenting on this. I guess because this book gave me a few "A HA! Read more
Published on Dec 17 2008 by Joy
1.0 out of 5 stars Paulo Decides to Retire
Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, has been awarded France's Legion d'Honneur, Italy's Grinzane Cavour and was inducted into the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 2002. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2007 by Craobh Rua
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW
what an amazing novel coming from a guy who reads only when he must (for school). i hate books but i love this one and it started me reading. Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2006 by Salar
5.0 out of 5 stars THE MEANING OF LIFE...
Is always unfair, to describe the plot of a book, beacause if someone wants to read it, well they don't want to know the spice of the writing, Veronikas decides to die, it's a book... Read more
Published on July 5 2004 by S. Quinto
4.0 out of 5 stars Veronika decides t die
Yesterday I read the Book "Veronika Decides to die" by Paulo Coelho, It was surprisingly gripping. The narrative style of the book is so simple and smooth. Read more
Published on June 9 2004 by Ranjit Damodaran
2.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time
I picked up this book thinking it would provide insight into suicide and asylums. I was disappointed. Read more
Published on June 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad to see the negative reviews
I was wondering whether to read "11 Minutes" by Paulo Coelho, but now I definitely will! I have read - and loved - "The Alchemist," "The Pilgrimage,"... Read more
Published on May 21 2004
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