Book review: Veronika Decides to Die


In his latest international bestseller, the celebrated author of The Alchemist addresses the fundamental questions asked by millions: What am I doing here today? and Why do I go on living?Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for—: youth and beauty, pleny of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So, on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up.
Naturally Veronika is stunned when she does wake up— at Villete, a local mental hospital, where the staff informs her that she has, in fact, partially succeeded in achieving her goal. While the overdose didn't kill Veronika immediately, the medication has damaged her heart so severely that she has only days to live.
The story follows Veronika through the intense week of self-discovery that ensues. To her surprise, Veronika finds herself drawn to the confinement of Villete and its patients, who, each in his or her individual way, reflect the heart of human experience. In the heightened state of life's final moments, Veronika discovers things she has never really allowed herself to feel before: —hatred, fear, curiosity, love, and sexual awakening. She finds that every second of her existence is a choice between living and dying, and at the eleventh hour emerges more open to life than ever before.
In Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho takes reader on a distinctly modern quest to find meaning in a culture overshadowed by angst, soulless routine, and pervasive conformity. Based on events in Coelho's own life, Veronkia Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Poignant 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.
24-year-old Veronika is a beautiful girl who has everything, but she's not happy. Seeing that a lot is wrong with the world, she decides there's no point in living and commits suicide by taking way too many sleeping pills. While she's waiting to die, a sentence in a magazine catches her eye: "Where is Slovenia?" Being angry at the fact that nobody knows where her country is, Veronika writes a letter to the magazine, letting them know where Slovenia is. And this ends up being her suicide letter. While losing consciousness, Veronika goes into panic, thinking "If I puke, I won't die," but it's too late, and everything goes dark.  At the end, she doesn't die; she finds herself at a mental institution. She's told that she did not die, yet the sleeping pills caused a problem with her heart and that she'll die soon.

The main character being Veronika, one things the book will be entirely about her story and how she got there. Yet, we meet different characters and get a glimpse of their stories. Zedka is depressed. Mari has panic attacks. Eduard, whom Veronika ends up falling in love with, is schizophrenic. And Dr. Igor is someone who tries different things on his patients and then writes papers about his experiments. I'll admit that on the subject psychology, there's usually no straight answer, but the Doctor made me angry. She told Veronika she would die soon just to push her back to life. I felt like he needed patients at the hospital, and he was way too eager to do research on them for his papers.

The book explores the notion of "craziness" through the characters and their stories, Veronika being in the center. It's a book where every reader can find a piece of themselves. People get scared of behavior that is different form what they're used to, and therefore put those kind of people into the "crazy" category. When Veronika figures this out, she realized her freedom: "I'm crazy anyway, so I can do anything" kind of realization. As a result of this, she dares to do thing she didn't dare before like love, hate and sexual awakening. In the meantime, she falls in love with Eduard, who's in his own world yet seems to love it when Veronika plays the piano.

In the end, Dr. Igor doesn't tell Veronika the truth and she goes on living thinking that she might die any day. The Doctor believes that this way Veronika will see each day as a miracle, and he sits down to write about his "experiment" with her. This is something that left me at a crossroad: is it okay to make someone believe they might die any day just for the possibility that they'll start enjoying life? Doesn't the person deserve the truth? Would they try to die again if they learned the truth? There are questions I cannot answer. But life, with its ugliness and tough times is worth living and there might be a miracle, a surprise or something exciting any second.


  1. Sounds really good. I've always meant to read this one. I'll have to move it up the list! :)

  2. I think you'd like it. I'm not a Coelho fan, but this was very different from what I'd read of his work before. It's a very quick read, too :)

  3. I'm glad you loved this book, it is one of my favorites and I really like Coelho's writing. Of course, being Slovenian, I'm a little partial to this book, Coelho captured the place, time and historically-based consequences in the mentality very well. I do have mixed feeling about the whole lie thing, too. Great review!

  4. I'm glad he captured Slovenia well! I've been there one on a skiing trip, but unfortunately haven't seen enough to be able to compare anything.


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