Coelho’s Parable on Adultery

Cover Image“Sometimes you have to lose yourself to discover who you are”  The subtitle of Paulo Coelho’s novel, cuts to the chase and summarises in a sentence the life lesson contained in Adultery.

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has developed a huge following since his novel, The Alchemist, became an international bestseller. A couple of years ago, I was invited to review Manuscript Found in Accra — a contemplative series of stories in which the citizens of Jerusalem in 1099 explore a series of questions relating to love, jealousy and fear and in the process uncover wisdom and lessons for life. It was my first experience of Coelho and gave me an insight into what makes his work so appealing to many people.

He is a beautiful writer who presents thoughtful and wise insights about life and living that are a form of consolation for the soul.

Coelho’s latest novel, Adultery, is a parable where plot — and to some extent character — take second place to the moral of the tale. It’s the story of a bored and slightly depressed journalist, Linda, with a perfect husband and children who lives a privileged life in Switzerland yet is bored and dissatisfied so that when she comes across a former boyfriend she is easily tempted and embarks on an affair. Linda is not a particularly sympathetic character yet she has characteristics that many readers will recognise either in themselves or in others. She seeks meaning by questioning her own thinking, by reading, by talking to friends. She even consults a ‘shaman’ or wise man yet, ironically, it is her husband who ultimately helps her to allow herself to truly lose control and thereby discover emotional healing.

Adultery by Paulo Coelho is published by Random House. [Disclosure: An Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) was made available via Netgalley for the purpose of this review.]

Chain of Events — fast-paced thriller by Swedish author Fredrik T Olsson

Cover ImageJournalist Christina Sandberg’s ex-husband disappears from hospital while being treated for a suicide attempt. A cryptologist with expertise in military code breaking, William Sandberg has special skills that a top secret international organisation urgently requires. But who is behind the organisation and why are they so intent on withholding the contextual information that might help William crack the code? And how is William Sandberg’s experience linked to the killing of a homeless man in a fake ambulance in Berlin?

Meanwhile, Janine Haynes a student specialising in Sumerian symbols has also disappeared. She, too has skills and knowledge that are valuable to the organisation.

Time is short and it becomes clear that William and Janine are working on a code that could have drastic consequences for humanity.

The tension never lets up as the stakes get higher and higher in this fast-paced thriller. It is the debut novel of Swedish screenwriter Fredrik T Olsson.

Chain of Events by Fredrik T Olsson is published by Little, Brown Book Group UK. ISBN: 9780751556853. [Disclosure: An Advance Readers Copy was made available free of charge via Netgalley for the purpose of this review]

We Were Liars — a young adult title with wide appeal

Cover Image Usually young adult fiction wouldn’t cross my radar however I stumbled upon E Lockhart’s haunting mystery We Were Liars in Time magazine’s Best Books of 2014 so far and because I love books set off the coast of Massachusetts, I decided to give it a go.

We Were Liars is a coming of age story about a group of wealthy children who holiday each year on their grandfather’s private island where they enjoy idyllic long summer days in beautiful houses close to the water.

The story is narrated by a troubled teenage heroine — Cadence Sinclair — whose memory was damaged during a trauma endured on a previous summer holiday in an incident that no one is willing to talk about.

Like all families, however, the Sinclairs have their secrets and jealousies albeit concealed behind an apparently perfect facade. There’s tension among the children’s mothers who are manipulated by their powerful and wealthy father and Lockhart underlines the age-old nature and universality of such tensions in a series of references to similar themes in folklore.

Place and atmosphere — mystery and myth — lies and truth — are more important than character in this short novel which runs to just 240 pages. The Kindle edition of We Were Liars was a steal at $1.68 when I purchased it a couple of days ago. I loved E Lockhart’s writing and while the story may fade over time, hers is a name that will remain on my radar from now on.

 

An enjoyable ‘Bittersweet’ summer read

Cover imageBittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Random House, 2014.

When Mabel Dagmar — an ordinary girl from a working class background — is invited by her college roommate, Ev Winslow, to spend the summer at Bittersweet a cottage on the Winslow family’s Vermont estate, it seems like a dream come true. Mabel longs to experience the privileged world of her wealthy roommate almost as much as she wants to escape a summer with her own parents.

Armed with a copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost which she plans to read over the holiday period and an instruction from her mother to ‘be sweet’, Mabel seems set for an idyllic summer.

She quickly falls in love with the privileged world of the Winslows but she is an outsider in their paradise and it seems everyone wants to use her for their own ends.

Spurred on by curiosity about her host family, Mabel is drawn into a web of dark family intrigue and the secrets she uncovers have devastating consequences.

Overall, I found Bittersweet a good yarn and an enjoyable holiday read.

[Disclosure: An Advance Readers’ Copy (ARC) was provided by the publisher via Edelweis/Above the Treeline for the purpose of this review.]