Me and Carmen, my beautiful friend from Spain started reading this together. Even though, we both had seen what happens to Veronika in the end, we still stuck together and started reading it.
The book starts with the passage from Luke 10:19
Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents… and nothing shall by any means hurt you
The story starts on 11th November 1997, when Veronika the protagonist of the story decides to end up her life. She silently picks up four packs of sleeping pills from her table and takes them one by one until they are all over. She then picks up a magazine to find out someone asking “Where Slovenia is…”. She then thinks her death note should be explaining where Slovenia is and then passes out. When she wakes up, she finds herself in middle of tubes thrust down her throat, in the mental asylum Vilete. It is the much-feared lunatic asylum known for having genuine mad men and people who do not want to face the real world. It is a sanctuary from where people once entered, never wish to come out.
It is then, Paulo Coelho gets to hear the story of Veronika from herself.
Once in Vilete, She wonders why did she ever take such a step and right then Dr. Igor the head psychiatrist of Vilete discloses that, her heart has been completely damaged with the over dosage of sleeping pills and all she has is a week to survive. Hearing this, Veronika decides to go on a guilt free trip of her last few days, by living each day as her last. She meets 3 different people who add meaning to her life.
The first one being Zedka. Zedka is a lady who was once a happy house maker who lost her sanity, in believing that she was in love with some anonymous guy who would give her the Impossible Love- A love which never fades. To find out the guy, she would sabotage her marital life and end up in Vilete.
The second lady being Mari – a once successful lawyer crippled by frequent panic attacks, until one day her friend suggests her to visit Vilete. She goes for a regular check up and ends up being a permanent resident there. Her husband finally divorces her and she settles down in the asylum being one amongst the mad men.
Third person whom Veronika starts admiring is Eduard– a Schizophrenic, who was once a dear son for an Yogoslavian Ambassador, turns himself into a painter painting Visions of Paradise, until his parents finally declared him as a permanent resident of Vilete. Eduard brings out Veronika’s love for playing piano which makes her fall in love with Eduard.
What is most interesting is what Veronika does in the last few days of her stay in Vilete.
She learns how to be free from Zedka. She learns to express her inner desires openly towards Eduard, in turn discovers why do humans always suppress all those inner desires of having drowned in multiple orgasms. Why do humans never come out of their own walls and describe someone who does it as MAD. She learns what it is to love someone unconditionally, without any barriers without any regrets for she knows she would die soon. Mari helps her clarify that people often suppress their desires only because they would be judged. Once you let go of that, you would be a free man.
Eduard on the other hand, helps her escape from all those things she always prevented herself from doing it. He helps her fall in love with not just herself but also helps her discover her great piano playing skills. The most intrusive thing about the book is it is a bit draggy in certain places, but apart from that, the book gives a good deal of lessons on why each day should be treated as a miracle and the importance of Love… which is above wisdom. I liked the lines by Eduard on the below image,
“Because the Virgin equals female energy and is the mistress of the snake, which signifies wisdom. If you look at the ring Dr. Igor wears, you’ll see that it bears the physician’s symbol: two serpents coiled around a stick. Love is above wisdom, just as the Virgin is above the snake. For her, everything is Inspiration. She doesn’t bother judging what is Good and what is Evil… The Virgin never took any notice of what others might think of her…”
Mari and Zedka also come out of Vilete after seeing Veronika living her last few days as a free spirited lady. Veronika and Eduard both escape from Vilete and enjoy their night out. They drink bottles of Wine and speak a lot until Veronika ends up with Eduard in Castle of Ljubljana. The next morning Eduard wakes up, to find Veronika lying curled up in his arms, making him think she is dead. But in reality, she opens her eyes and discovers she is alive… for one more day.
What happens in the background is that Dr. Igor just drugs her with Fenotal, which gives her effects of heart attacks and makes her think that her death is near. So that, she realizes the importance of her life….Be it a wicked technique set by the doctor or a wise decision, Veronika and the 3 inmates escape from Vilete and find a true vision for their own lives. Igor succeeds in giving a new direction to the 4 inmates who had come to Vilete with zero hope on their lives.
The moral of the story is simple.
I would rate the book 3.5 since the simple message has been conveyed by dragging too much in the book.