Coelho’s Parable on Adultery

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

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho developed a huge following the publication of his novel The Alchemist.  Although this became an international bestseller, I had not read any of his work until relatively recently.

An invitation to review Manuscript Found in Accra was my introduction to his work. This is a contemplative series of stories in which the citizens of Jerusalem in 1099 explore questions relating to love, jealousy and fear.  In the process, they uncover wisdom. The deceptively simple format seems to really work and gave me an insight into why Coelho’s work appeals to so many people.

He writes beautifully and his thoughtful insights serve as a form of consolation for the soul. Manuscript Found in Accra, in particular, is a book to keep and seek out in times of stress and trouble.

A parable

Coelho’s latest novel, Adultery, is a parable. 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. The plot begins is based around what happens when Linda  comes across a former boyfriend  and embarks on an affair.

Linda is not a particularly sympathetic character. Nevertheless, she has characteristics that many readers will recognise either in themselves or in others. She seeks meaning by questioning her own thinking, reading and talking to friends. While she has a loving husband, Linda longs for something more. She even consults a ‘shaman’ or wise man in her quest for meaning. Ironically, it is her husband who ultimately helps her to discover wisdom. She realises that losing control is the key to finding herself and unlocking emotional healing from within.

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

See also Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho.