Paulo Coelho, trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Zoë Perry. Knopf, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-101-87408-0
Coelho’s disappointing new novel suffers from its lead character’s navel-gazing. After an interview subject reveals his thoughts about living a passionate life to buttoned-up Linda, a 30-something journalist, mother, and wife to a loving, wealthy husband, she begins to believe her own life is empty. From there, she initiates an erotic affair with a high school boyfriend even after her first come-on leads him to suggest she enter marriage counseling. Her emotional nosedive includes an outrageous plan to win him over, and she ponderously dwells on John Calvin, St. Paul, King Solomon, Frankenstein, and Jekyll and Hyde. Coehlo’s best work is personal and expansive, whether it concerns a Jewish prophet in the ninth century B.C.E. (The Fifth Mountain) or a young shepherd (The Alchemist) traveling widely in pursuit of treasure. Unfortunately, this novel’s constrained Geneva setting lacks expansiveness, and what is personal quickly becomes plodding. For most of the story, Coelho abandons his beautifully spare, evocative prose in favor of overwrought sentences, returning to form only as the story nears its end. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/30/2014
Release date: 08/19/2014
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