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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, 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.

Inspired by 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.

Topics: Love, Spirituality , Death, Mental Illness, Depression, Suicide, Hope, Music, Courage, Slovenia, Dark, and Philosophical

Published: HarperCollins on Mar 17, 2009
ISBN: 9780061835438
List price: $10.99
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amazing storyread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
make us reconsider our "normality"...in amazing wayread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Probably the mosr sensible Coelho books. I actually enjoyed reading this one.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
For Jessica, yes, reading the book first and see if the movie rendition is worhty. That's what I always do. LOL. And This is my favorite Coelho book.In one his his many interviews Coelho said this is a book about life and death. Agreed 100%. It starts off with our protagonist Veronika's night when she deided to overdosed herself with sleeping pills. only to wake up in an asylum called the Villet, the doctor then explained how they managed to revived her but barely, she was told that she only have a few days to live. She then found and met interesting people. The horrifying treatments and the heartbreaking story of their life made me finish the book in one sitting.I can never really describe how much this book change the way I view mental illness. Veronikas situation is so colloquial that I felt the depression that drove her to suicide. But like any other person looking outside the box I also feel that her stunt earned her a place in the aylum and then I got to know her, like Zedka, Mari and most especially Eduard. In a society that one simple act of temporary violence is considered a disease thus said people are shunned by the public and most of their relative. Example: Mary, in a heated arguement with her co-worker pulls her hair, out of frustration. Said co-worker then pressed charges and Mary was sent to a mental institution backed up with paper works from a professional that labeled her as a bi-polar, Mary then was given medications that they think would help her "get well" and the result... could be many things. She maybe now suicidal, lost or even dead. I respect the professionals but I question the authenticity of their diagnosis. My point is, can someone really say one is truly disturbed, based on one given situation? Because for me people who annoys you or people who lost their temper and smash, say an ex-husbands windshield because she caught him cheating doesn't count. (ok, enough reality shows. LOL)Beautifully written. Based on Paulo's personal experience in the asylum. Prepare to cry. A life changing book.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The story is original. A woman carries out careful suicide plans but wakes up in a psychiatric ward where the doctor tells her that in the attempt she has damaged her heart beyond repair. She will live for only a week. What would any of us think or do during several final days of introspection? A great premise spoiled only by a tasteless sex scene.It was a good story that could have been great.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
For me this book was about conforming to social norms and how we act and feel in our day to day lives to fit into what society prescribes. Veronika, a librarian (an awesome job I would imagine!), decides to commit suicide but luckily fails and ends up in an institution for the mentally ill. As she is 'treated' by the hospital's head physician she encounters other patients who are all looking for, but seldom finding, their place in the world.

I loved the dialogue and the opportunity that her 'illness' allowed for her to finally find and express her true self. Viewed as an unstable person allowed for her to voice and act out in ways she (and we as 'normal' individuals) would otherwise never have done.

"If one day I could get out of here, I would allow myself to be crazy. Everyone is indeed crazy, but the craziest are the ones who don't know they're crazy; they just keep repeating what others tell them to."

With this (and an on-going experiment by said head physician) Veronika finds love, acceptance and her true voice.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Coelho managed to put a lot of thought-provoking material in a very slim book.This read is about a woman who fails at committing suicide and how she finds herself, her awareness, and her foundations while housed in a mental facility being used as an "experiment" of sorts. It's engrossing and endearing without being morbid considering the subject.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really liked this book. It has a really nice message that in order to be happy and feel alive, we need to be a little mad.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The title says it all... One day, Veronika decides to die. However, all does not go according to her plans. An awesome, awesome book. Very clever!read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was a very strange and compelling book, I read through it in one night. I really had no idea what to expect from it and if I had any expectations it surpassed them like most of this authors books do. I know a lot of people don't like a book that is simple and direct with it messages but I love this authors style and how he get to the heart of an issue and really make you think. What if? What would I do? Would I do the Same thing? I think most of his books are a must read ,period! Just read it and be surprised, I don't want to give anything away but so far each book I read by this author makes me think about what parts of my life are working and what parts could be changed , and maybe what kind of person I really want to be. Hey maybe Insanity is just being really , deeply honest. :0)read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Beautifully written, extremely insightful. The rating is a little lower because I find the subject matter--suicide--depressing to read about, but I'll check out other books by this author.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This particular book altered between fascinating and boring for me. Some lines made me stop, sit back, and consider and other parts I found myself skimming. I loved the overall idea though of living each day truly believing that it's your last. I also liked the way he used his own experiences to write this out.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Loved this one. My only gripe about it is when the story sidetracks to give some background for the other patients. I thought that didn't really make much difference to me regarding the story, at times I felt they were just fillers. Four and a half out of five.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
My second book by Paulo Coelho and I liked this one much more. An interesting idea to plot the idea of your own mortality and imminent death into your brain to cure you from your suicidal thoughts. This book makes it quite plausible and believable, really. Though I have taken lectures on suicide I am not quite sure it would really work like this in real life.Enjoyable read, I can recommend it. :)read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I've just started reading the book. Its very different from other Coelho books,but I've only read three of his other books, Eleven Minutes,Alchemist and this one. I'll write more once I've finished.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Absolutly fabulous. If you want a author who mixes it up and doesn't fall into a formula (Dan Brown), Coelho is your man.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Frankly, this is a terrible book.I've read two other Coelho books, and I see the pattern now: these are fictionalised self-help books, and they are every bit as vapid and soulless as the worst self-help books.In this example, Veronika decides to end her life; she wakes up in a mental institute, and slowly rediscovers life and a reason for living. How very predictable. The other major characters, three other inmates of the asylum, all seem on the point of recovering, or have already recovered from their problems. In fact, we don't see anybody in the asylum who really has a problem to speak of.The writing is worse than bad. Coelho's style has been praised as being simple and pared-down, much in the way of Hemingway's 'Old Man and The Sea', but the difference here is between simple and simple-minded. Coelho's is definitely the latter. It almost seems lazy. The characters, when they speak, say the most tremendously profound things - or they speak in hackneyed, unrealistic tones. Regardless, they speak in the same style and grammatical structure as the rest of the book. We only know when the characters are philosophising and not just Coelho thanks to the speech marks.I've read enough Coelho now to know that his writing is not for me. I shall not return to his books.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Is it only what we cannot have that we want? I liked the concept, but did not enjoy the writing much, or was that the translation?read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Beautifully told fable--just a little too fablish.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
There are some books that you find just in the nick of time and then there are others that you never would have found unless someone else suggested them. Veronika is young and full of doom and dread and tries to commit suicide. She ends up in a mental institution and then changes the thinking of many of the others.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book sketches an idea on the origin of insanity. Through the fates of four asylum inmates madness is seen to result from the conflict of our own desires and the expectations of our loved ones, and the force towards living a "normal" life, all of which create a fear of the outside world. Very convincingly, Coelho portrays normality as just a code enforced by a majority. An asylum is a place where one can ignore this code, where one can freely be "different", but the fear of reality persists. In this book, the haven is disturbed by Veronika's impending death, and some of the inmates are forced to face this fear.Apparently Coelho has himself been committed to an asylum. It seemed like a calm, safe place. This book has a positive tone throughout it, it is encouraging, soothing. Veronika's will of life in the face of death is like someone working harder to meet a deadline. I just wonder what happens when she finds out that she's not really dying...Coelho writes well, there is real thought to his text, but at times it's cheesy.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
i loved this book, message given was nice, which also included that too make some one happy even if its necessary to lie then its not a big sinread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Went to download this book because I remembered wanting to read it a long time ago. After I downloaded it I remembered that I had read it last year. It was that forgettable. The story had so much potential. I'll probably like the movie much more, releasing in US in 2011, becuase the movie will probabaly help us feel more for Veronika. The way she was written, I feel nothing for her.I actually grew so bored with the book halfway through that I started skimming large portions of text just to get through it. I NEVER do that. And then I get to the end and it was exactly as I suspected. I might give it another read sometime when i have nothing else to read.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Mr Cohelo's books are extremely popular and having read "The Alchemist" I gave ths one a chance. It was better but still patronizing. All his books seem to say much about nothing. They assume the reader will be taken in by trying to sound mystical and that there is something behind it but you are left thinking "What was all that about"read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you live differently? Would you regret the things you did, thinking you shouldn't have done this or that?

And to this, Coelho writes, why wait until you're dying? We're born to die , isn't that the saying? Certainly we'll die, and we don't know when. It could be tomorrow, it could be 50 years later. So why waste our lives? For a book titled as such, it talks a lot about the value of living.

I guess I really like this book because it's full of crazy people, people who don't conform, and I'm a little crazy myself. It's taught me to embrace my madness, to look at every day as if it's different from the day before it, to live like who I am, and how I want it.

When faced by your own mortality, I don't think you have a choice but to live your life to the fullest.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Paulo Coelho's novel has such an eye-catching title that it's easy to think that it will rely merely on gimmicks to keep your attention. Instead, Veronika Decides to Die proves to be a patient, methodical, and empathetic novel that explores mental illness in a surprisingly compassionate manner.The decision alluded to in the title actually occurs prior to the start of the story, as Veronika ingests an overdose of sleeping pills and awaits their onset throughout the first chapter. Though she expects to never wake up, she opens her eyes and finds herself in a psychiatric institution known as Villete, where she is told that she has survived but irreparably damaged her heart. Over the week she's told she has left, she meets the many people of the hospital and comes to question her views on life, death, insanity, and purpose.It's fair to say that not much happens over the course of the novel, but -- as evidenced by a brief chapter in which the author himself makes an appearance -- the work really is more about exploring the nature of mental illness than it is about Veronika's own development. We do come to appreciate Veronika and what she goes through, but it is through learning about the secondary characters -- especially Mari, Eduard, and Zedka -- that we gain an appreciation for what it's like to experience mental problems.The vividness of Coelho's descriptions are what drive the novel's force. While the depictions of the characters' histories are surprisingly sympathetic, Coelho spares no detail in describing each character's symptoms. Particularly striking are Eduard's experience undergoing ECT and Zedka's insulin coma, both out-of-body experiences that gracefully paint the disconnect between body and mind. The most gut-wrenching impact, though, comes during the scene where Mari has her first panic attack. As someone who has experienced it, I can assure you that Coelho has masterfully captured the physical reactions as well as the paralyzing fear of the attack. It was so vivid I needed to stop reading because it recalled my own experience.Of course, while the philosophical musing and intense depictions are top-notch, the novel is not without its weaknesses. Thematically, Coelho is obviously concerned with arguing for the problems with the relativity of "normal," but it's disconcerting that so few characters in the institution actually HAVE a disorder. It would be far more realistic to try and explore the issues from the perspective of someone actually suffering. Similarly, the character of Dr. Igor is maddening for his apparent coldness throughout much of the text, but it's Coelho's last-second plot twist that will most certainly enrage anyone with any knowledge of scientific method.Despite these inconsistencies, though, the novel remains a tremendously affecting novel, one that eloquently explores themes that are not only relevant but incredibly significant in our time. Coelho's personal experience shines through in every page, and the result is a novel that feels both personal and public, patient yet urgent, and hard to put down.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book is wonderful, my favorite by Paulo Coelho. The end is absolutely brilliant.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
To be honest, I'm just not sure what to make of Veronika Decides to Die. I've read a few of Paulo's books now, and am afraid I can't get as hyped up about them as the general mass of opinion. Maybe it's because I've read too many similar types of books over the decades? To start with I can't really get into and appreciate the whole 'package' because I don't like his style; it grates on me. Not exactly sure why; too removed, dispassionate, simplistic, superior, a bit too clever, even egotistical in parts... At best I'd call it bland. The characters are not convincing and there is no empathy engendered for Veronika (or Eduard for that matter) and that's sad. Zedka and Mari did get a slightly better deal from him though.I know some of the simplest books pack the hardest messages, but this one just doesn't do it for me. Some of the descriptions of the way people react to stresses and stressors and illness were insightful, and I agree with part of his theory on 'the madnss within'; but the way he portrays many of the aspects of the mentally ill and lumps everyone together in one big mad basket really is very annoying, and the bits about the 'heart problem' was absolutely and totally ludicrous. I know, I know, it's not meant to be a medical textbook - it's a fable.It was so obvious right from the start where the book was heading and what the 'message' was/is, that I'm not certain I gained very much from reading it. The same message is gleaned by and from anyone who has been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness - and delivered with so much more passion.I'm sure the fans will love it no matter what, but I certainly will not be looking for any more of his.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Who the heck decided that this book - out of the hundreds of millions of books out there - belonged on the 1001 books to read before you die list? Seriously, I don't understand. I do not like Coelho's style at all. The upside: it was a quick read.

Two back to back 2 star books do not make me a happy camper. Jane Austen, I'm counting on you to get me out of this reading slump.

ETA: I have decided that this book must have been commissioned by Hallmark. Are all of Coelho's books like this?read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

amazing story
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
nice
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
make us reconsider our "normality"...in amazing way
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Probably the mosr sensible Coelho books. I actually enjoyed reading this one.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
For Jessica, yes, reading the book first and see if the movie rendition is worhty. That's what I always do. LOL. And This is my favorite Coelho book.In one his his many interviews Coelho said this is a book about life and death. Agreed 100%. It starts off with our protagonist Veronika's night when she deided to overdosed herself with sleeping pills. only to wake up in an asylum called the Villet, the doctor then explained how they managed to revived her but barely, she was told that she only have a few days to live. She then found and met interesting people. The horrifying treatments and the heartbreaking story of their life made me finish the book in one sitting.I can never really describe how much this book change the way I view mental illness. Veronikas situation is so colloquial that I felt the depression that drove her to suicide. But like any other person looking outside the box I also feel that her stunt earned her a place in the aylum and then I got to know her, like Zedka, Mari and most especially Eduard. In a society that one simple act of temporary violence is considered a disease thus said people are shunned by the public and most of their relative. Example: Mary, in a heated arguement with her co-worker pulls her hair, out of frustration. Said co-worker then pressed charges and Mary was sent to a mental institution backed up with paper works from a professional that labeled her as a bi-polar, Mary then was given medications that they think would help her "get well" and the result... could be many things. She maybe now suicidal, lost or even dead. I respect the professionals but I question the authenticity of their diagnosis. My point is, can someone really say one is truly disturbed, based on one given situation? Because for me people who annoys you or people who lost their temper and smash, say an ex-husbands windshield because she caught him cheating doesn't count. (ok, enough reality shows. LOL)Beautifully written. Based on Paulo's personal experience in the asylum. Prepare to cry. A life changing book.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The story is original. A woman carries out careful suicide plans but wakes up in a psychiatric ward where the doctor tells her that in the attempt she has damaged her heart beyond repair. She will live for only a week. What would any of us think or do during several final days of introspection? A great premise spoiled only by a tasteless sex scene.It was a good story that could have been great.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
For me this book was about conforming to social norms and how we act and feel in our day to day lives to fit into what society prescribes. Veronika, a librarian (an awesome job I would imagine!), decides to commit suicide but luckily fails and ends up in an institution for the mentally ill. As she is 'treated' by the hospital's head physician she encounters other patients who are all looking for, but seldom finding, their place in the world.

I loved the dialogue and the opportunity that her 'illness' allowed for her to finally find and express her true self. Viewed as an unstable person allowed for her to voice and act out in ways she (and we as 'normal' individuals) would otherwise never have done.

"If one day I could get out of here, I would allow myself to be crazy. Everyone is indeed crazy, but the craziest are the ones who don't know they're crazy; they just keep repeating what others tell them to."

With this (and an on-going experiment by said head physician) Veronika finds love, acceptance and her true voice.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Coelho managed to put a lot of thought-provoking material in a very slim book.This read is about a woman who fails at committing suicide and how she finds herself, her awareness, and her foundations while housed in a mental facility being used as an "experiment" of sorts. It's engrossing and endearing without being morbid considering the subject.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really liked this book. It has a really nice message that in order to be happy and feel alive, we need to be a little mad.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The title says it all... One day, Veronika decides to die. However, all does not go according to her plans. An awesome, awesome book. Very clever!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was a very strange and compelling book, I read through it in one night. I really had no idea what to expect from it and if I had any expectations it surpassed them like most of this authors books do. I know a lot of people don't like a book that is simple and direct with it messages but I love this authors style and how he get to the heart of an issue and really make you think. What if? What would I do? Would I do the Same thing? I think most of his books are a must read ,period! Just read it and be surprised, I don't want to give anything away but so far each book I read by this author makes me think about what parts of my life are working and what parts could be changed , and maybe what kind of person I really want to be. Hey maybe Insanity is just being really , deeply honest. :0)
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Beautifully written, extremely insightful. The rating is a little lower because I find the subject matter--suicide--depressing to read about, but I'll check out other books by this author.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This particular book altered between fascinating and boring for me. Some lines made me stop, sit back, and consider and other parts I found myself skimming. I loved the overall idea though of living each day truly believing that it's your last. I also liked the way he used his own experiences to write this out.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Loved this one. My only gripe about it is when the story sidetracks to give some background for the other patients. I thought that didn't really make much difference to me regarding the story, at times I felt they were just fillers. Four and a half out of five.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
My second book by Paulo Coelho and I liked this one much more. An interesting idea to plot the idea of your own mortality and imminent death into your brain to cure you from your suicidal thoughts. This book makes it quite plausible and believable, really. Though I have taken lectures on suicide I am not quite sure it would really work like this in real life.Enjoyable read, I can recommend it. :)
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I've just started reading the book. Its very different from other Coelho books,but I've only read three of his other books, Eleven Minutes,Alchemist and this one. I'll write more once I've finished.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Absolutly fabulous. If you want a author who mixes it up and doesn't fall into a formula (Dan Brown), Coelho is your man.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Frankly, this is a terrible book.I've read two other Coelho books, and I see the pattern now: these are fictionalised self-help books, and they are every bit as vapid and soulless as the worst self-help books.In this example, Veronika decides to end her life; she wakes up in a mental institute, and slowly rediscovers life and a reason for living. How very predictable. The other major characters, three other inmates of the asylum, all seem on the point of recovering, or have already recovered from their problems. In fact, we don't see anybody in the asylum who really has a problem to speak of.The writing is worse than bad. Coelho's style has been praised as being simple and pared-down, much in the way of Hemingway's 'Old Man and The Sea', but the difference here is between simple and simple-minded. Coelho's is definitely the latter. It almost seems lazy. The characters, when they speak, say the most tremendously profound things - or they speak in hackneyed, unrealistic tones. Regardless, they speak in the same style and grammatical structure as the rest of the book. We only know when the characters are philosophising and not just Coelho thanks to the speech marks.I've read enough Coelho now to know that his writing is not for me. I shall not return to his books.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Is it only what we cannot have that we want? I liked the concept, but did not enjoy the writing much, or was that the translation?
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Beautifully told fable--just a little too fablish.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
There are some books that you find just in the nick of time and then there are others that you never would have found unless someone else suggested them. Veronika is young and full of doom and dread and tries to commit suicide. She ends up in a mental institution and then changes the thinking of many of the others.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book sketches an idea on the origin of insanity. Through the fates of four asylum inmates madness is seen to result from the conflict of our own desires and the expectations of our loved ones, and the force towards living a "normal" life, all of which create a fear of the outside world. Very convincingly, Coelho portrays normality as just a code enforced by a majority. An asylum is a place where one can ignore this code, where one can freely be "different", but the fear of reality persists. In this book, the haven is disturbed by Veronika's impending death, and some of the inmates are forced to face this fear.Apparently Coelho has himself been committed to an asylum. It seemed like a calm, safe place. This book has a positive tone throughout it, it is encouraging, soothing. Veronika's will of life in the face of death is like someone working harder to meet a deadline. I just wonder what happens when she finds out that she's not really dying...Coelho writes well, there is real thought to his text, but at times it's cheesy.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
i loved this book, message given was nice, which also included that too make some one happy even if its necessary to lie then its not a big sin
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Went to download this book because I remembered wanting to read it a long time ago. After I downloaded it I remembered that I had read it last year. It was that forgettable. The story had so much potential. I'll probably like the movie much more, releasing in US in 2011, becuase the movie will probabaly help us feel more for Veronika. The way she was written, I feel nothing for her.I actually grew so bored with the book halfway through that I started skimming large portions of text just to get through it. I NEVER do that. And then I get to the end and it was exactly as I suspected. I might give it another read sometime when i have nothing else to read.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Mr Cohelo's books are extremely popular and having read "The Alchemist" I gave ths one a chance. It was better but still patronizing. All his books seem to say much about nothing. They assume the reader will be taken in by trying to sound mystical and that there is something behind it but you are left thinking "What was all that about"
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you live differently? Would you regret the things you did, thinking you shouldn't have done this or that?

And to this, Coelho writes, why wait until you're dying? We're born to die , isn't that the saying? Certainly we'll die, and we don't know when. It could be tomorrow, it could be 50 years later. So why waste our lives? For a book titled as such, it talks a lot about the value of living.

I guess I really like this book because it's full of crazy people, people who don't conform, and I'm a little crazy myself. It's taught me to embrace my madness, to look at every day as if it's different from the day before it, to live like who I am, and how I want it.

When faced by your own mortality, I don't think you have a choice but to live your life to the fullest.
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Paulo Coelho's novel has such an eye-catching title that it's easy to think that it will rely merely on gimmicks to keep your attention. Instead, Veronika Decides to Die proves to be a patient, methodical, and empathetic novel that explores mental illness in a surprisingly compassionate manner.The decision alluded to in the title actually occurs prior to the start of the story, as Veronika ingests an overdose of sleeping pills and awaits their onset throughout the first chapter. Though she expects to never wake up, she opens her eyes and finds herself in a psychiatric institution known as Villete, where she is told that she has survived but irreparably damaged her heart. Over the week she's told she has left, she meets the many people of the hospital and comes to question her views on life, death, insanity, and purpose.It's fair to say that not much happens over the course of the novel, but -- as evidenced by a brief chapter in which the author himself makes an appearance -- the work really is more about exploring the nature of mental illness than it is about Veronika's own development. We do come to appreciate Veronika and what she goes through, but it is through learning about the secondary characters -- especially Mari, Eduard, and Zedka -- that we gain an appreciation for what it's like to experience mental problems.The vividness of Coelho's descriptions are what drive the novel's force. While the depictions of the characters' histories are surprisingly sympathetic, Coelho spares no detail in describing each character's symptoms. Particularly striking are Eduard's experience undergoing ECT and Zedka's insulin coma, both out-of-body experiences that gracefully paint the disconnect between body and mind. The most gut-wrenching impact, though, comes during the scene where Mari has her first panic attack. As someone who has experienced it, I can assure you that Coelho has masterfully captured the physical reactions as well as the paralyzing fear of the attack. It was so vivid I needed to stop reading because it recalled my own experience.Of course, while the philosophical musing and intense depictions are top-notch, the novel is not without its weaknesses. Thematically, Coelho is obviously concerned with arguing for the problems with the relativity of "normal," but it's disconcerting that so few characters in the institution actually HAVE a disorder. It would be far more realistic to try and explore the issues from the perspective of someone actually suffering. Similarly, the character of Dr. Igor is maddening for his apparent coldness throughout much of the text, but it's Coelho's last-second plot twist that will most certainly enrage anyone with any knowledge of scientific method.Despite these inconsistencies, though, the novel remains a tremendously affecting novel, one that eloquently explores themes that are not only relevant but incredibly significant in our time. Coelho's personal experience shines through in every page, and the result is a novel that feels both personal and public, patient yet urgent, and hard to put down.
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This book is wonderful, my favorite by Paulo Coelho. The end is absolutely brilliant.
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To be honest, I'm just not sure what to make of Veronika Decides to Die. I've read a few of Paulo's books now, and am afraid I can't get as hyped up about them as the general mass of opinion. Maybe it's because I've read too many similar types of books over the decades? To start with I can't really get into and appreciate the whole 'package' because I don't like his style; it grates on me. Not exactly sure why; too removed, dispassionate, simplistic, superior, a bit too clever, even egotistical in parts... At best I'd call it bland. The characters are not convincing and there is no empathy engendered for Veronika (or Eduard for that matter) and that's sad. Zedka and Mari did get a slightly better deal from him though.I know some of the simplest books pack the hardest messages, but this one just doesn't do it for me. Some of the descriptions of the way people react to stresses and stressors and illness were insightful, and I agree with part of his theory on 'the madnss within'; but the way he portrays many of the aspects of the mentally ill and lumps everyone together in one big mad basket really is very annoying, and the bits about the 'heart problem' was absolutely and totally ludicrous. I know, I know, it's not meant to be a medical textbook - it's a fable.It was so obvious right from the start where the book was heading and what the 'message' was/is, that I'm not certain I gained very much from reading it. The same message is gleaned by and from anyone who has been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness - and delivered with so much more passion.I'm sure the fans will love it no matter what, but I certainly will not be looking for any more of his.
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Who the heck decided that this book - out of the hundreds of millions of books out there - belonged on the 1001 books to read before you die list? Seriously, I don't understand. I do not like Coelho's style at all. The upside: it was a quick read.

Two back to back 2 star books do not make me a happy camper. Jane Austen, I'm counting on you to get me out of this reading slump.

ETA: I have decided that this book must have been commissioned by Hallmark. Are all of Coelho's books like this?
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