From the book jacket: A new, international bestseller by the author of The Alchemist
tells the story of Maria, a young girl from a Brazilian village, whose first
innocent brushes with love leave her heartbroken. At a tender age, she becomes
convinced that she will never find true love, instead believing that "Love
is a terrible thing that will make you suffer ..." A chance meeting in Rio
takes her to Geneva, where she dreams of finding fame and fortune. Instead, she
ends up working as a prostitute.
In Geneva, Maria drifts further and further away from love as she develops a fascination with sex. Eventually, Maria's despairing view of love is put to the test when she meets a handsome young painter. In this odyssey of self-discovery, Maria has to choose between pursuing a path of darkness, sexual pleasure for its own sake, or risking everything to find her own "inner light" and the possibility of sacred sex, sex in the context of love.
Comment: I'd been reading about this book in overseas markets for about a year before it was published in the USA; as a result I was on to the publisher in the USA as soon a publication date was announced, hustling for a review copy. Coelho's books have been translated into over 40 languages and have sold in the multiple millions ('The Alchemist' alone has at least 11 million copies in print) - so, having never read anything by him, I was eager to dig in.
Is it a good book? Personally, I have to say no. The stumbling blocks for me are partially the writing style, but also that the growth of the main character from innocent Portuguese speaking village girl to the writer of philosophical journal entries stretches credibility a little too far, and the whole seemed to me to be too obvious a vehicle for moralizing. Having said that Coelho specifically says that he doesn't moralize in his books, leaving others to reach their own conclusions, and in the interview (that you can read at BookBrowse) he says that the character of Maria is based on a real person - so perhaps I'm being too cynical!
This is what the reviewers say:
"The Brazilian Coelho at times persuades reviewers with his talent but often is seen as gucky and spiritually challenged.....Down-to-earth dialogue and detail about classy whoring: one of Coelho's strongest." -- Kirkus Reviews.
"....a philosophical exploration of sexual love, using Maria's increasingly ponderous and pseudo-philosophical diary entries as a means for expounding on the nature of sexual desire, passion and love. At the end, the story boils down to a rather predictable romance tarted up with a few sexy trappings." -- Publishers Weekly.
This review is from the March 16, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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