Sunday, June 14, 2015

Adultery by Paulo Coelho

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 35

Here’s my book review of Adultery by Paulo Coelho.

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is a New Age philosopher who gives his self-help advice in fables, moral tales with lessons learned. He is perhaps best known for his book The Alchemist.

Adultery is no exception to his body of work. It’s a moral tale told as a first-person confession by Linda, a bored, middle-class housewife who strays from her marriage. The narrative is spare, lacking much of the picture-painting detail you’d expect in a novel. Instead, it reads like a transcript from a psychiatric counseling session. That’s disappointing if you’re looking for an escapist story – but of course the last thing Coelho wants you to do is escape. If you came to this book, you’d better face facts.

This book is highly commercial, aimed at women’s book clubs. The story does not depart from Linda’s mundane life, glamorous as it might seem on the surface. She works as a journalist in Geneva, Switzerland and has all the material wealth she could desire, as well as a doting husband with his own professional career, and well-behaved children. Her lover is a politician and his spiteful wife is a university professor. But no one gets killed, and the only violence is some indirect insults over dinner.

I don’t know the statistics, but I believe more affairs end in reconciliation than divorce. It’s not love but communication that’s missing. This book has nothing new to say about any of that.

Guys, if your wife’s book club is reading Adultery (and there are group discussion questions in the back), you won’t be asked to leave the room. You’ll be told to leave the house!

Here's an observation I didn't include in the podcast: Coelho's prose may be especially spare in this book because his narrator is a no-nonsense Swiss. If she were a hot-blooded Italian, perhaps it would be a different book - or not a book at all without all that brooding guilt. Anyhow, despite the lack of narrative ornament, Adultery is not without its interesting sidelights. Linda can't help remarking on the chills she feels as she gazes at the statue of Protestant reformer John Calvin. "His tactics for implementing what he believed to be the ultimate truth remind me of the perverted mind of Osama bin Laden. Both men had the same goal: to install a theocratic state... And neither of the two hesitated to use terror to achieve their goals."

Coelho's distaste for formal religion is evident here as he points out that the father of present-day Presbyterians didn't hesitate to execute heretical intellectuals and their families, including all their children.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones, author of the humorous novel, Mr. Ballpoint. And you can catch these podcasts at

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