The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho
A community devoured by greed, cowardice and fear. A man persecuted by the ghosts of his painful past. A young woman searching for happiness. In one eventful week, each of them will face questions of life, death and power. Each of them will have to choose their own path. Will they choose good or evil?
You're surely all now aware of my disdain for Coelho and his lacklustre attempts at philosophy. If it weren't for my stubbornness and commitment to read every book I buy, you wouldn't be reading this. Yet here I am, reviewing another waste of my time, and here you are, reading up on why it doesn't deserve a chance.
In this volume, Coelho takes it upon himself to pontificate on the essence of good and evil, morality, and the human condition. Are humans inherently good or bad? Do we have good and evil battling inside us at all times? Does it have the potential to be great? Yes. Does it deliver? Shit, no.
With one-dimensional, boring characters you'll struggle to care about, a predictable plot, and too many pretentious paragraphs I'm sure are quoted in thousands of Twitter bios, it's a sad little musing that could have had a real impact. No passion, no blast of emotion to the chest, only a longing to make it to the last page.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, at seeing Coelho again patronise and discredit his female characters. Where Chantal Prym should have been written as a strong character, he continued to write her as weak-willed and lacking in ambition, with her only way out boldy highlighted as finding a husband. She slept around and was vilified for this; she really should be finding a husband. We're introduced to an older woman who was lucky enough to find a husband in the black and white days, but he's dead and that means she's so worthless that she might as well die.
Another static Coelho element here was his tendency to treat his readers as though they are utterly stupid. We aren't allowed to interpret things for ourselves; he spells everything out clearly for us as though he's the only man in the world who can understand a bit of basic philosophy. He's exasperating.
We go round in circles exploring the idea of morality, with contradictions, repetitions, and a complete air of tedium. With such an interesting and important theme, I'd expect some sort of impression to be made on me. A terrible book, and I still have one more to go.