The Assembly is the best part of this book. As a blood soaked group of ten functioning as a single organism, they are creepy and terrifying. I would n The Assembly is the best part of this book. As a blood soaked group of ten functioning as a single organism, they are creepy and terrifying. I would not want to come across them in a sunny field of daisies let alone dark alley. And, yet, they were also the most sympathetic characters in the novel, because their function is vital in holding reality together and because it is their very job that has made them the disturbing creature they are. It was easy to pity them and though I couldn't quite route for them (because no person good or evil deserves to be placed at their hands), I couldn't help wanting them to receive some sort of gain out of all that happens.
The good guys on the other hand were entirely uninteresting to me. Jared Kare, who is scheduled to be granted to the Assembly as a Gift, is an anxiety ridden man in his 20s incapable of functioning on his own and apparently without any passions. The banshee, who doesn't even have a proper name, is a manic pixie dream girl in every sense, including metallic blue-purple hair and cerulean eyes, who literally drags the reluctant Jared into the unseen magic of the world in order to save him from the assembly. The banshee, a being that sings mortal souls into the light, is willing to help Jared out of all the other human's she serves because of her particular fondness for him (though it's hard to understand why, since he's as bland as white bread and is incapable of functioning as an adult in the world, with friends cooking, cleaning, and even depositing his checks for him). The banshee doesn't understand human girls who go for confident men and don't coddle all these good-hearted nice guys, like Jared, into being the greatness they secretly are (because what is the purpose of a woman, if not to make reluctant men great). For the first half of the book, she drives all of the action with Jared just dragging his feet by her side.
I probably would have not bothered finishing this one, if the Assembly didn't scare the crap out of me every time they showed up, which kept things interesting. Thankfully, the second half of the book got more interesting and wrapped up well, making it mostly enjoyable.
Note: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. ...more
I almost gave up reading during the first part of this book, which focused on the relationship between a fifteen-year-old boy and an older woman. I foI almost gave up reading during the first part of this book, which focused on the relationship between a fifteen-year-old boy and an older woman. I found no sense of the eroticism described on the back cover, only a feeling of unsettled bordom. Although the young man in part pursued the relationship, it was clear that emotional manipulation was taking place and that this was not really erotic or romantic.
It was only when the book shifted in part two to the young man as a law student, seeing his past lover again as a defendant in trial for war crimes after the holocaust that the story became interesting. The moral aspects of not only this one young man torn between wanting to understand his former lover’s horrifying actions as a guard at an intermnent camp and wanting to condemn her for those same actions, but also an entire generation of German young men and woman shamefully trying to distance themselves from their parents past crimes, is fascinating and well handled. The writing itself is plain and resists trying to come to any of its own judgements.
Although I didn’t love the reading experience, I find myself mentally returning to it over and over again, mentally rolling over the circumstances. What was circumstance? What was crime? What deserves condemnation and what does not? Questing and reconsidering my own conclusions again and again, just as the narrator does. ...more
I have become less and less enamored with Coelho's writing, since I first read The Alchemist many, many years ago. Maybe I have become a bit2.5 stars
I have become less and less enamored with Coelho's writing, since I first read The Alchemist many, many years ago. Maybe I have become a bit more cynical or maybe my relationship with spirituality has shifted and matured in a way that doesn't relate to the kinds of messages he shares anymore (it would be interesting to re-read The Alchemist and see if I still relate to it as I once did).
All of this is to say that I did not love Veronika Decides to Die, which tells the story of a young, beautiful woman who attempts suicide and is placed in the Villete mental hospital in Slovenia and how her redemption and growth inspires other patients to redeem themselves and find their own ways back into the world. My problem with the story is not so much a rejection of the idea that "normal" is a condition determined by the majoritythat condemns the unique and different as insane, but rather that none of the characters seem to behave as real people. Each character, including many of the patients turn out to be secretly wise old souls, able to spout deep and meaningful philosophy at a moment's notice. These four main patients are just "different" from what society expects them to be, which is why they have settled and become comfortable in the hospital. Although, some of the "real insane" are mentioned in passing, the complicated issues of those dealing with true mental illnesses is not treated well. The main focus of the story is on a more romantic vision of insanity and suicide as something that is just misunderstood, with the idea that if a person can just learn to take risks and live life fully everyday, then they can cure themselves of "insanity." While I agree in the concept of trying to live as fully as possible, here it is presented as such an oversimplification and repeated over and over again to the point that the story becomes dull and the message watered down.
There is also a strange meta-moment early in the book in which Coelho inserts himself into the story in order to explain that he chose to write the book due his own experiences of being put in a hospital as a young man. Although this is both true and interesting (his parents thought his entry into the arts was a mental aberration), it felt like an odd distraction from the main story and was something I would have preferred to have seen better described in an author's note.
Veronika Decides to Die — not a favorite of mine. ...more