Review: ‘Veronika Decides To Die’ Paulo Coelho

Veronika has everything she could wish for. She is young and pretty, has plenty of boyfriends, a steady job, a loving family. Yet she is not happy; something is lacking in her life, and one morning she decides to die. She takes an overdose of sleeping pills, only to wake up some time later in the local hospital. There she is told that her heart is damaged and she has only a few days to live.

The story follows Veronika through these intense days as to her surprise she finds herself experiencing feelings she has never really felt before. Against all odds she finds herself falling in love and even wanting to live again…

I recently downloaded an app called Slowly. It’s a messaging app…but with a catch. You’re matched with people who share similar interests and the messages (or ‘letters’ as many of the app’s users refer to them as) received take varying amounts of time to arrive, depending on where in the world they’ve been sent from. In a world of instant messaging, it makes for a refreshing change. I’m currently chatting to a woman living in Germany. One of our shared interests is reading and when I asked if she had an all time favourite book, she said Paulo Coelho’s Veronika Decides To Die. She said she reads it once a year as a way of reminding herself “what life really is about”. Sometimes I just want to read a book that tells a good story, but sometimes I want to read something that will make me think. When I received my virtual pen pal’s letter, I was very much in the mood for the latter. When I discovered that my partner had a copy of Veronika Decides To Die sitting on one of our overcrowded bookshelves, I decided to give it a go.

If I were to describe Veronika Decides To Die in a single sentence, it would be this: Short, but quietly inspiring. It’s one of those books that people will interpret in different ways, but for me, it’s about people taking responsibility for their own happiness. When Veronika wakes up in a psychiatric hospital after trying to take her own life, she’s told by the head doctor that she’s irreparably damaged her heart and only has a week to live. As the days count down to her demise, she reflects on her life and realises that her unhappiness is a direct result of trying to live up to other people’s expectations of her, in particular her mother’s. She gave up on her ambitions for the future and instead took on the ambitions that people like her mother had for her. Ultimately, she realises that to truly live, a person has to live in a way that brings them happiness and fulfilment.

Injecting happiness into another person’s life is a beautiful thing, but it should never come at the cost of our own happiness.

I’m not going to go into anymore detail about the book because I don’t want to inadvertently spoil anything and take away from another person’s reading experience.

I’ll conclude my review with this: Veronika Decides To Die might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally found it to be an inspiring and thought-provoking read, one that made me evaluate the way I’ve lived my own life up until this point. That evaluation was uncomfortable at times, but it was much-needed and if it makes me give more time and attention to my own happiness, that can only be a good thing, right?

Want to read Veronika Decides To Die? Head on over to Hive, Bookshop or World of Books to order your copy, or buy it through your local bookstore.

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