[Review] Adultery by Paulo Coelho

Dear Reader,

They ask what the problem is. We say that everything is fine, but it’s not … Everything is awful.

Have you ever found your thoughts miring in such a dismal place? These are the musings of Linda, a well-to-do journalist, wife, and mother in Switzerland. From an outsider’s perspective, Linda appears to have it all, yet she is unhappy. In fact, she is clinically depressed.

Paulo Coelho’s Adultery (originally printed in Portuguese) is a simple story — a woman considers committing adultery; she commits adultery, and then, life goes on. However, Adultery is complex in many other fascinating ways, especially for the contemplative reader.

Adultery does not feel like a modern novel. At times, it reads like a Victorian comedy of manners, as the protagonist unduly preoccupies herself with her role in society and how her peers view her. In other moments, it reads like a Russian masterpiece, which if you have not read one, I’m referring to their tendency to ramble… (unpopular opinion; I will die on this hill). In many other ways this book just feels like it is from another era. A small example of this concerns Linda’s children who are referenced but are not real characters (they are seldom seen and not heard; unlike many contemporary domestic novels, which heavily feature children). Additionally, and centrally to the plot, the book concerns one of the most philosophical and cliché questions of all time — what is the meaning of life?

Despite all her good fortune, Linda struggles to find happiness and can see no “meaning” to life. She considers religion, briefly becomes captivated by a shaman, plots revenge (through an ill-conceived cocaine scheme); she sleeps with a married man and literally finds herself seeing the world from a bird’s eye view. In truth, not much “happens” in this book but it is deeply emotional and oh-so very human. It is not a favorite of mine, however, it is different from other books and, therefore, stands out—prominently.

The book is about an emotional and spiritual journey. It will not thrill you, but if you open your mind to Linda’s world, it will make you think (and maybe even laugh at the dry humor and small absurdities thrown in throughout).

As I was reading, I mentally compared Adultery to Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856) and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1878)(the latter, which I also reviewed here). Adultery has a similar tone (bleak), themes (adultery, society), and focuses on a female protagonist who wants to “have it all.” However, unlike the leading ladies in these 19th century antecedents, Linda is a modern woman, in a first-world, democratic country, and has more control over her fate.

This book is different. It’s not for everyone (or most people, frankly). Had I picked it up a few weeks back, I’m not sure that I would have finished it (let alone have written about it). Honestly, I do not think I can say that I really liked this book (also, regarding the actual adultery, it becomes irritatingly graphic). The characters are purposely unremarkable; the plot is slowly paced, yet the story is somehow engaging all the same.

I was curious to see what others had to say about Adultery and found these recent reviews on Amazon

4.0 out of 5 stars … the stage of boredom in their marriage and feel like cheating upon each other

1.0 out of 5 stars 2nd Disappointment from Paulo Coelho.

1.0 out of 5 stars A Demented Rambling Stream of Consciousness…..

2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing female lead

5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply one of the best books I have ever read.

So, Adultery is not everyone’s cup of tea… but neither is tea, so, read if you please 🙂

Happy reading!




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