I read this book mainly because I went to see the play at the Fortune Theatre in London a few weeks ago. The play was really good. It wasn't the scariI read this book mainly because I went to see the play at the Fortune Theatre in London a few weeks ago. The play was really good. It wasn't the scariest thing I have ever experienced, as some reviews claim, but it did make me jump and it was a fantastic performance carried entirely by two actors, with most of the fear factor delivered through good old fashioned darkness, sudden noises, closeness of the atmosphere (it was the smallest theatre I have ever been in) and the audience interaction (there were very frequent shrieks), rather than any advanced technology or complicated props. The play has been performed in London for the last 23 years and remains hugely popular, so I would thouroughly recommended it if you are ever in London and are theatrically inclined.
The Woman in Black is a short novella written by Susan Hill in the 1980s which tells the story of a young solicitor Arthur Kipps and his terrifying encounter with a ghost in a small market town on the East coast of England where he is sent to settle the affairs of Alice Drablow, an old lady recently deceased. The novella is a pastiche on the Victorian gothic literature and it certainly read very authentic with its languorous pace, isolated gloomy manorhouse setting and extensive descriptions of fog and other kinds of dreary weather. But therein also lies the main problem I had with this book. I can well understand the need to set the mood and the scene with some description of nature and the surroundings, but when I am faced with paragraph after paragraph describing the colour of mud and the dripping sky, my eyes soon start to glaze over. The intro and the build-up to the actual story were also far too long, given the overall length of the book (it is 30-odd pages before the hero even gets to the place in a book that's only 138 pages long) and the ending was too rushed and abrupt in comparison. Also, the comic relief, which was very well done in the play, was sadly missing from the book.
Overall, however, this was an interesting story and a quick read and I look forward to seeing what they have done with it in the film....more
Veronika is a 24 year old Slovenian woman who one day decides to kill herself, apparently because (1) "everything in her life was the same and, once hVeronika is a 24 year old Slovenian woman who one day decides to kill herself, apparently because (1) "everything in her life was the same and, once her youth was gone, it would be downhill all the way" and (2) everything is wrong with the world and she feels powerless to make things right. After she takes an overdose of sleeping pills, Veronika wakes up in a mental asylum and the remainder of the book is, basically, a series of interactions between Veronika and a number of the inhabitants of the asylum, including a young schizophrenic named Eduard, who mainly stands around mutely and masturbates while Veronika plays the piano. Veronika (what else!) inexplicably falls in love with him, after she similarly inexplicably regains her joie de vivre.
I suppose, that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Veronika, and certainly Coelho does not add much else in terms of characterisation. Some reviewers have pointed out that to create realistic characters or believable plot is not the point of this book and certainly not Coelho's intention. I guess one really has no choice but to agree with this as it is patently obvious that this is not so much a book as a meditation on insanity with characters and plot which are merely vehicles to convey the author's thoughts on the subject and encourage the reader to reflect on the same and to explore how they may feel/behave/think in similar circumstances.
Paulo Coelho himself makes a brief and pointless appearance at the beginning of the book to tell you that it is based on his own experiences as a mental patient and proceeds to bash you over the head with his message, which is that everyone is crazy, insanity and genius are two sides of the same coin and we should all let our inner freak out and stop trying to conform.
As a reader, I find this approach supremely unsatisfactory. For some reason, I tend to be much more receptive to the message when I can actually bring myself to care about the story or the characters, however unsympathetic they may be. I am sometimes able to forgive lack of plot or character development if the book is particularly informative or beautifully written or manages to turn me on or makes me think about a subject in a new and interesting way. Unfortunately, this book did none of that. Veronika fails even as a placeholder because her actions are so absurd and incomprehensible that I was completely unable to relate to them or to put myself in her shoes. So all that was left was the message and I had absolutely no patience for Coelho's particular brand of preachy self-help pop-psychology. ...more