Right, I am not sure about this book. I have been a fan of Paulo Coelho since reading ‘The Alchemist’ some 20 years ago. So let me ramble as I sort through my feelings and thoughts… 🙂
Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: Penguin Australia (19 August 2014)
Genre: Fiction – General, Spirituality
What’s it about?
Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, ‘Is this it?’
A novel about discovering who you are, where you’re going and what matters to you most.
These first and last lines, on the back cover, coupled with the title ‘Adultery’ created a certain expectation even before I began. So, my expectation? A story of a woman who will or has been involved in an adulterous affair and, knowing Coelho’s writing, is grappling with her sense of self and the revelations which ensue.
So did it deliver? Yes and no.
A judgment-laden phenomenon, adultery I expected would invite a richly profound and complex study of the human psyche, at least of the protagonist. This I did not get from the book. Nor did I get depth of characters or the moral debate over adultery. Yet there is something in this book that appeals.
First, a little about the storyline:
The protagonist, Linda lives in Geneva with her husband and two children. Geneva is, according to Linda, a city that has everything but feels ‘sterile’ – like her marriage. All things good but a bit grey, boring. Her husband is the owner of an investment fund, madly in love with her and the ultimate provider, father and spouse. Linda herself is a journalist, who begins a destructive love affair with Jacob, a politician who was once her teenage sweetheart.
Linda’s initial obsession with Jacob borders on being stalker-ish while the affair that follows is fueled by more lust than real emotions, dissatisfyingly shallow. The word ‘adultery’ comes with a whole lot of baggage – judgments about the adulterer, the state of a marriage, whether it is ever justified for adultery to happen; and the whys and hows. Yet this book barely dwells on these; instead it proffers Linda’s depression and the affair as natural consequences of each other – a rather flippant approach at that. While the book has the potential to address many issues in greater depths, Coelho it seems has chosen not to do so.
The narrative written from Linda’s perspective, is easy to read, its spiritual messages simple. Such as “Come, You are heaven and earth, the wind and the clouds, the snow and the lakes” or “Wisdom and experience don’t change the man. Time doesn’t change the man. The only thing that changes us is love.”
The book contains quite a few of these ‘quotable quotes’, as they are to me, about love and living which were not given space to blossom.
The crux of the novel – that no matter how good your life is, sometimes you do have to lose yourself to find yourself again – is offered through revelations to Linda as the affair progresses.
Maybe I don’t actually love him. But I love what he has awakened inside me. He treated me with zero respect, left me stripped of my dignity. Undeterred, he did exactly what he wanted, while I strived, once again, to try to please someone.
Today I realize that yes, I was in love…that all married people always have a secret crush. It’s forbidden, and flirting with the forbidden is what makes life interesting. But few people take it further…a little thrill to make sex more erotic and hear “I love you” shouted out at the moment of orgasm. Nothing more.
There is no romanticizing the affair.
There is no debasing her marriage and the family that seems loving and functional. Here is a husband who stands by his woman, who tells Linda:
Everyone has days when they say: “Well, my life isn’t exactly lining up with my expectations”…Going after a dream has a price….But however costly it may be, it is never as high as the price paid by people who didn’t live.
I controlled the jealousy I feel because of you…Because I always have to show I’m worthy of your love…I can’t stop you from leaving one day…I would never stop you from being happy.
Ultimately, this is about Linda – her depression and her need to find contentment or fulfillment in her life.
I can’t shake a sense of incompleteness in this simplicity. I wonder if the message is lost in translation – the book being an English translation of the original in Portugese. This is not to offend or criticize the translators but rather speak to the possible loss of the nuanced language it was originally written in.
Perhaps the simplicity of Coelho’s writing is analogous to the need to sometimes take things as they are, not to over-think and to judge but to feel and go with what is, however painful. Perhaps there is a need to ride through the storm, as Linda did, and emerge with greater awareness. Therein lies a journey that each of us may need to traverse.
Or am I over-thinking? 🙂
To get a sense of Paulo Coehlo, whose spirituality is so evident in his previous books and his astute business mind, here is an interview he gave just prior to the release of ‘Adultery’.
‘Adultery’ is an enjoyable light read though not the book I had expected from Coelho, whose previous writing has been filled with spirituality and wisdom.
If you enter without expectations, you will enjoy it.
Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think: 3.5/5
Overall enjoyment: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
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