Author: Paulo Coelho
Published By: Vintage Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I had heard a great deal about Adultery, the latest novel from Paul Coelho. With a controversial title and controversial activity in the book, quite a few people picked up a copy for themselves, posing for pictures with their books on Facebook. I wondered why so many had run out to get themselves a copy. I had read The Alchemist and The Pine Tree of St. Martin and found Paul Coelho's writing to be inspiring to both my philosophical and spiritual side. So, I decided to find out what all of the buzz was about and picked up a copy of Adultery.
Adultery is a tale told by Linda, a journalist living in Geneva, Switzerland. Ten years married with children, Linda finds her happiness waning. Food is bland, the job she once loved boring, the family she once treasured monotonous and frustrating. Why can she no longer find happiness in the things that brought her most joy. Could it be that she is depressed? A friend seems to be suffering the same symptoms and is being treated with medication. Could it be a spiritual flaw? Or could it be that, after ten years, marriages sometimes get stale?
This is the question she finds herself asking the most as she finds herself scheduled to interview Jacob König, a politician and an old flame from school. She decides she will act on impulses and begins down a road of clandestine rendezvous, jealousy and deceit. But is her affair with Jacob what she really needs in life or is there something more? Is Linda insane or just acting out some fantasy?
Having read works by Coelho before that made the reader think, I expected the same with Adultery. But this book is not like the Coelho tales I have read previously. I immediately began to feel that Linda was depressed and trying everything she could to prove that she was in control of her situation, despite the fact that she was simply spiraling further into the despair she didn't want to admit to.
The affair happens rather abruptly - hello, been so long since we've seen each other, let me unzip your pants and we shall begin. I expected something incredibly different, but perhaps Coelho was looking for some sort of shock value here - to get you to see that Linda is desperately seeking anything that can change her depressed state. I get that to a degree, but it doesn't make me a fan of Linda. In fact, for some reason, I felt an immediate dislike for the main character of this book and her lover. Even though I knew that there had to be more than meets the eye to Linda's actions, I still couldn't seem to find any redeeming qualities.
As I read about Linda's affair, her obsession with someone she can't have and her downright abusive nature, I liked her even less. Maybe this is what the author intended for his readers - to hate the main character so that when she reaches her moment of enlightenment, she appears to be better than she really is. I never quite saw that though. What I saw was a self-destructive woman who couldn't find happiness in her own life and decided to drag some others down with her into her abyss of depression. The discussion of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein by Linda as she struggles to understand her actions are incredibly relevant in describing her character, but don't make her any endearing. You almost want her to lose everything...perhaps in losing it all, she can be redeemed.
As it turns out, despite her enlightenment, I still dislike Linda and was rather disappointed with this novel, despite the messages about living in the moment, allowing yourself freedom to express yourself, opening yourself up to new experiences and knowing when to follow your dreams and when to let them go. Adultery seems to have garnered some terrific press, but in the end, for me, this book left me wondering why I bought it in the first place.