Number of pages : 191 pages
Author : Paulo Coelho
Narrator : The author himself.
- Veronika: a 24-year-old librarian from Ljubljana, Slovenia. She tries to commit suicide but fails and finds herself in a mental hospital.
- Zedka: one of the hospital patients, he has a clinical depression.
- Mari : she suffers from panic attacks and is almost cured, but she lies and tells her doctor the attacks have returned.
- Edward : a patient who has schizophrenia, he falls in love with Veronika.
- Dr. Igor : a psychiatrist in “Villete”, a mental hospital in Ljubljana.
The novel tells the story of Veronika, a beautiful young woman from Slovenia. Veronika had everything, money, a job, a family, boyfriends, etc. However, she wasn’t happy and she always felt that her life was empty of purpose and that future would be worse, that’s why she decides to suicide by taking many sleeping pills.
Instead of dying, she awakes in “Villete”, a mental hospital in Ljubljana. Nurses tell her she has only one week to live because the pills had caused irreversible damages in her body.
During her stay in “Villete”, Veronika meets Zedka who suffers from a mental depression. Zedka had a husband, children and a stable life, but she’s been obsessed by an old lover and she still thinks that he’s looking after her.
Veronika meets also Mari who suffers from panic attacks. Mari’s husband wanted to divorce her, so even when she is cured, she prefers to lie to her doctor and pretends that the attacks have returned.
The fear of death hasn’t prevented Veronika from falling in love with Edward, a schizophrenic person who dreamed of being a painter but his parents didn’t let him achieve his dream.
During a week, Veronika experiences a number of changes in her vision of life and death, in her beliefs, her attitudes and her personality. She becomes spontaneous and starts expressing easily her anger, her weakness, her fear and her love without worrying about other’s prejudice or about the future because she believes she will be dead soon.
The presence of Veronika in the hospital has influenced all patients and incited them to think about their own life and value it more and has encouraged them to leave the hospital to achieve their dreams.
At the end of the novel, the reader discovers that Veronika didn’t suffer from any damages. It was only an experiment of Dr Igor who decided to shock her by death to make her value the life she had. This experiment was fortunately successful because it helped Veronika see the world in a new light.
1. The novel is rich with information about history of some countries like Slovenia, Serbia, etc.
2. There is also scientific information about psychology.
3. The final message given by the author is interesting: life is worth living despite contradictions we can notice around us, we just have to change our perception of life, face the difficulties and overcome our fears in order to make sense to those contradictions.
4. Some questions raised by the novel characters are not answered (does God exist or not? Is he fair or not?) and some of the author ideas about love, sex, marriage, kids, betrayal are not deeply explained. This means that even the author is still looking for answers.
==> The novel is very interesting, worth reading and full of suspense. So I rate it 5/5.
Some personal thoughts
1. “Veronika decides to die” is a new discovery of life when death seems to be so near. When Veronika was told that her life would end in one week, she became aware of the value of every moment she was living and she started realising the mistakes she had made in the past, she also started expressing spontaneously her feelings, stopped worrying about the future and decided to achieve the dreams she had given up.
Veronika’s change was contagious, because when she decided to be happy and to make a positive difference in her life, she influenced other people and inspired them to change their own lives too.
2. In the novel, Veronika goes through two psychological states:
- State 1: the old Veronika hates her life and thinks it’s not worth living, she is hunted by negative thoughts and by fear, and she has a black image of life and death. So, she decides to end her life at a day she specifies.
- State 2: the new Veronika knows she will die but she doesn’t know when. During this period, she discovers that she still wants to live, and she starts facing her fear and weakness and thinking positively about her life and her future.
Between the two states nothing has changed around Veronika. The only thing that has changed is her perception of life and death and her own vision of herself.
3. All human beings are condemned to die just like Veronika. Most people complain about their problems and their lives, but if they knew that the day of their death is so close, they would wish they could live eternally.
4. As a Muslim, according to my beliefs:
- Death is in the hands of God. He is the only one who can decide when every mortal will die.
- Life is a short journey, and all its challenges are only a way to ensure the Eternal Happiness in Heaven. So, we should learn how to enjoy this life and how to take advantage of every moment, sad or happy, since it makes us closer to our ultimate goal.
- In this life, we all have a mission to accomplish. To succeed, we need a roadmap (in my case, it’s my religion) that shows us the way we should follow, the places we should explore or avoid, and prevents us from being in a depressive state like the one Veronika went through.
Software engineer at the Moroccan Ministry of Finance.
Interests: Reading, travel and social activities.