Monday, 9 August 2010

Some thoughts on the latest Paolo Coelho

You know there’s something wrong in the world when someone like me, an aspiring writer, gets to comment of the greats of our time such as Paolo Coelho. But hey, long live the internet for giving everyone a voice :).

In the preface of “The Winner Stands Alone” Coelho explains that this book reflects his observations on today’s world. From the first minute, the reader can tell that these must be built on Coelho’s interaction with the uber rich and mega famous or the “Superclass” as he calls them throughout the book. Set in Cannes during the film festival, what could have been a predictable cast of characters: the aspiring actress, rising model, international fashion designer, high powered film executive, is spiced up by interesting back stories. The model is a lesbian Rwandan refugee, the fashion designer a Bedouin from the Arabian desert whose sheikh set him up for success to become his cultural ambassador to the world, etc. The main plot is driven by Igor, a Russian billionaire with a shady past who’s trying to get his ex-wife back by murdering people or “destroying” worlds as he puts it.

I liked structure of the book where the stories run in parallel within 24 hours. Yet, with so many characters and a long back story for each, my main take on the book is that the sudden drop in pace: e.g. we go from a murder scene to a long backstory about a police officer’s life can make the book a little jarring. Like any other reader, I love the suspense, but the sudden slowdowns eventually got to me and made me put the book down much more often than I should have.

Initially, I loved the observations about the fickleness of our world and the darkness of the superclass but these were reiterated so many times that they became redundant. Also, we never really know why Igor thinks that killing people would make his wife get back to him. It would have been great to get a deeper glimpse into his psyche to make the plot about more than a class-A murderer who succeeds perfectly with every hit.

Overall, I thought the book missed the insight and depth of previous Coelho works. I hope the next one won't let his fans down.

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