Veronika Decides to Die and Should Have

Veronika Decides to Die. Catchy, right? This title drew me in completely. The book is beautifully written, tragically romantic; a portraiture of human nature at it's most hopeful and in it's barest moments. Yet in the final pages, the beauty falls away to reveal a manipulative puppet and his prank.

"Veronika had decided to die on that lovely Ljubljana afternoon, with Bolivian musicians playing in the square, with a young man passing by her window, and she was happy with what her eyes could see and her ears could hear. She was even happier that she would not have to go on seeing those same things for another thirty, forty, or fifty years, because they would lose all their originality and be transformed into the tragedy of a life in which everything repeats itself and where one day is exactly like another."

Truly, it began with such hope. A young woman, Veronika, from Slovenia decides to kill herself. She had two very well thought-out reasons to die: everything in her life was the same and the only change that would be imminent was death anyway, and second, the world was continually becoming a worse place to live and she was powerless to stop it. But her suicide attempt was only that. As a result she was taken to Vilette, a mental hospital, where she is told her attempt on her life shortened it to mere days. In Vilette, under her death sentence, she learns the flexible definition of "crazy," the fulfillment and richness to be enjoyed from a life lived and an appreciation for every single day.

And then Paulo Coelho pulls the rug out from underneath his characters and the whole card castle comes tumbling down. Dr. Igor, the doctor who runs Vilette, was experimenting on Veronika, seeing if the fear of dying would cure her imbalance of what he calls "bitterness." If Veronika had died, then at least she would have lived in the time given her. But now, she will end up right where she started, only older and more worn. Her life will become the tragedy she always feared. In the end, nothing changed. The experience is a farce, a reality that reveals itself to be a dream. As the reality leaves, the color, emotions and truths disperse into meaninglessness and leave the reader not only unsatisfied but robbed.

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This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.