Kathryn's Reviews > The Devil and Miss Prym

The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho
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's review
Aug 18, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2009, third-tuesday-book-club
Read in September, 2009

I finished reading my Third Tuesday Book Club book, not on the day of the meeting, but on the day before the meeting; and I am happy that I did so, because I will be very busy the day of the meeting (getting ready to go on vacation). I am also grateful, because as a parable, this book calls for a bit of contemplation before the meeting tomorrow night. On the other hand, as a parable about the battle between Good and Evil, I am glad to have read this.

The village of Viscos (in no particular where or when, save that it seems to be in Europe, and in the present age) has 281 inhabitants (173 men, and 108 women), ranging in age from the old woman Berta to the youngest person in the village, Chantal Prym, the barmaid at the village hotel. There are no children in the village; and the economy is based on sheep-herding and the local hunting season (which brings in seasonal hunters).

Into this village walks a man of middle age, with a small rucksack; he takes a room for a week at the hotel (making him the only guest), goes up into the hills, and buries eleven gold bars in two caches, one with one bar, and the other with ten bars. He then uses these caches to settle a question that has been bothering him for some time: are people basically good, or basically evil? When faced with temptation, will people resist, or will they rationalize their way to taking the apple? The stranger allows a week for his plan to work out in this remote village; but he is already quite certain that “Given the right circumstances, every human being on this earth would be willing to commit evil.”

Miss Chantal Prym becomes the agent for the stranger’s plan; indeed, as one of only three people in the village who are outliers (the old woman Berta is one, and the town’s priest is another), she is the perfect person to be the conduit to the village of the stranger’s quest and temptation.

Throughout the book (which is a parable in itself), many parables and stories are told about the origins of the village in the past, when it ceased to become a brigand hideout and became a law-abiding community. But there is no doubt that the village is dying, and that the stranger chose his setting well for his questions of Good and Evil. And the path that is ultimately chosen by Miss Prym and by the village remains in doubt throughout the book until the end.

I enjoyed reading this book; and I anticipate enjoying tomorrow night’s Third Tuesday Book Club meeting and the discussion of this book.

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