Veronika Decides to Die by Alice Teh

veronika.jpg I have finished reading yet another book, Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho. I liked this one a lot more than the last two I read: The Alchemist and Like the Flowing River.

Veronika Decides to Die (1998) is one of the three books in the trilogy And on the Seventh Day. The first book is By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994) and the concluding one which is The Devil and Miss Prym (2000).

Veronika, like the other two books, is concerned with a week in the life of ordinary people who are suddenly confronted with love, death and power. To quote Coelho, he said this: “I have always believed that in the lives of individuals, just as in society at large, the profoundest changes take place within a very reduced time frame.” This is exactly what happened in the story of this girl.

Veronika, young at the age of 24, is suicidal but she has no reason to take her own life. She has a family that loves her, friends who support her, and has a steady job at the library in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is also good looking. One day, she decides to end it all. Downing four packets of sleeping pills, she slips into a slow and painful death, but she did not die. She ends up in Villete, a famous hospital for the mentally ill. When she awakens from her coma, the doctor said she has only a few days to live. Her heart had suffered irreversible damage.

Veronika is stucked between life and death, sanity and madness. There in Villete, she found the companionship of Zedka, a thirty-something woman who suffers from depression; Mari, a 65-year old former lawyer who suffers from fear and panic attacks; and Eduard, the son of an ambassor diagnosed as schizophrenic, whom she later developed feelings for. Coelho gives enough background to these characters to understand why they ended up where they were.

Her presence in the hospital triggered some sort of hope in these people, and they too caused her to question the definition of insanity or madness. Who are the mad ones? Those in Villete or outside? Through it all, she develops a will to live and love, but she knows she will die in a matter of days. Also responsible in that realization is Dr Igor, and that realization reveals itself at the end of the story. Watch out for the twist.

Both Veronika and Eduard have something in common: The passion for their chosen vocation were not realized, or rather, what they wanted to do did not receive the consent of their parents. Veronika wanted to be a pianist while Eduard a painter. (This is somewhat similar to Coelho’s situation when he told his parents he wanted to become a writer, and he was admitted by his parents to an asylum.)

It is an interesting book in the sense that it brings you into the world of the supposedly mad people. There are, as usual, philosophical and religious elements in Coelho’s work.

This article is written by Alice Teh( www dot aliceteh dot com )