Book Review: ‘Adultery’ by Paulo Coelho: A Novel in the Making.
The author whose words are known to change lives is back with another philosophical fiction – ‘Adultery’.
The central character, Linda, is a woman in her thirties who has a loving and affectionate husband, two children and a fulfilling career. Yet she is deeply depressed because of the monotony and predictability of her everyday life. She meets her high school boyfriend, now a successful politician, for an interview which ends with her giving him a blow job. So basically, we have just another dissatisfied 30 something ‘housewife’ who claims to be a ‘highly regarded journalist’ and a successful politician with an unhappy marriage – two very routine clichés – involved in an affair.
Linda claims that chasing after Jacob, her high school lover, gives her monochrome existence some meaning and brings back some passion in her life. Swaying between morality and insanity from one page to the next, she resolves to break up Jacob’s marriage and plans to frame his wife for a drug offence.
She tries to find help and visits three different psychiatrists but none appear to satisfy her need for an intellectual/spiritual discussion. She finally finds solace under the guidance of a Cuban shaman who instructs her to “Go all the way” and see her dark side through.
I’ll let you find out on your own what happens when her husband finds out something’s up and she is forced to make a choice.
The way of writing, well, I’d say it falls short of what someone would expect from a ‘highly regarded journalist’. I must mention here that the book has a few truly grotesque accounts of Linda’s sexual encounters. Grotesque, which means, comically or repulsively ugly or distorted, because they can be improved on aesthetics. After all, Paulo Coelho is surely not Anirudh Bahl, whose espionage thriller of 2003, Bunker 13, went on to win the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Who’s Anirudh? He is an investigative journalist, author, founder and editor of the online magazine Cobrapost. He also played Tony B, in the MTV’s Tony B Show.
The characters appear very unreal at some points and the plot is pretty thin. One can surely find a few glints of the life-altering writing Coelho is known for but those glints are brief and too far apart and the reader struggles to find scrapes of lucidity in the text. The best the novel offers is in the last 50 pages which compelled me, inspite of all the dull moments, to close the book with a smile.
If you ask me, someone who was enchanted by ‘The Alchemist’, I’d say there’s a great novel in there somewhere amidst all that chaotic writing. The novel came as a disappointment to me who expected so much more from Coelho but I’d still say that the ideas and emotions are all there, only they weren’t channeled properly. Perhaps a little more time spent on editing and polishing would have helped. For me ‘Adultery’, which is available in eBook version, is a novel in the making.