Many years ago I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, a wonderfully written book. I had no idea this author had written so many other books. Two years back my sister gifted my younger brother a set of books by Paulo, from which one was Veronika Decides To Die. I’d been eyeing this one up for a while so finally got around to reading it. You’ll notice from my other reviews I don’t give books a rating or of x. But rest assure if it’s made it into my review panel then I recommend the read!
The protagonist of the story is..yep you guessed it Veronika. It opens with our main character contemplating her demise by taking an overdose and attempting to commit suicide. Recounting her misspent life having fun but feeling something was missing, she pops the pills down her throat. As the motions begin to kick in, her world is filled with darkness. She wakes up in a hospital to realise her disappointment.
Upon opening her eyes Veronika realises she is in a lunatic asylum called Villete. It’s located in Slovenia, her country of residence. The physician, Dr Igor, tells Veronika that while she was lucky to survive the attempt, her heart was seriously weakened. The impact therefore is she would die very soon. While counting down her final days, Veronika cuts a lonely figure. She avoids much contact, as in her mind ‘what’s the point if you aren’t going to live long anyway‘. But as the days pass she can’t but help form bonds with some of the other patients; notably Zedka (no stranger to shock treatments), Mari (once a lawyer overwhelmed by her life) and Eduard (a schizophrenic who has created a dream world for himself). Each of these patients present a self-realisation journey for Veronika who begins to feel the fear of her approaching death. They constantly challenge her reasons! Were her choices, which led her to this position down to a lack of expression, maybe not pushing for what she really desired? Can she realise the true meaning of her young life before it’s too late?
In the background Dr Igor is writing his thesis on the treatment of patients who have been deemed mad. The book constantly mentions his medicine of treatment but without giving too much away the reader learns of a deeper achievement which applies to us all, even more so today.
My angle on the moral
Are you mad if you question the rules and regulations set up in our society, governed to keep us in control? Paulo’s book asks the question of what the true definition of madness is. When I finished reading this book it made me wonder whether the boundary between sanity and madness actually existed. Is madness not just your personal space where you can express your feelings and desires?
My Favourite Passage
One of many conversations that take place between Veronika and Eduard.
If one day I could get out of here, I would allow myself to be mad, because everyone is, indeed, the maddest are the ones who don’t know they’re mad, but keep repeating what others tell them to.
If you’ve read a Paulo Coelho book then you will enjoy this one.