Adultery by Paulo Coelho – A Review
Paulo Coelho has written the ultimate book. This book trumps the Alchemist in my opinion because it touches not just on human relationships, but on the most sacred and revered of them all – Marriage.
The main themes of this book are
Happiness and the pursuit of it
The exploration of the above themes raised many questions which the author tried to answer- ‘are we living the optimum life possible?’, ‘logic and relativity’. The last bit makes this book a bible for some and a very disagreeable book for others.
The story is set in this century and starts in 2012. Linda -the central character to the story- is married to the nicest, most lovely man ever with 2 very well behaved kids and they live in Geneva, Switzerland.
Setting the pace for the book, the author goes ahead to describe her life as a very comfortable one. She has a house that is paid for, kids in good schools, a good job as a highly regarded journalist with a respectable Newspaper, her husband owns a large investment fund and has inherited some money from his family as well. By all standards, they are doing great and probably the envy of a lot of people.
She wakes up every morning, opens her eyes to a new day and wants to close them again, stay in bed and not get up. Nothing about her life impresses her, instead it depresses her (using the word here loosely) and while not sure what she needed, she knew she needed something.
Depression is described as life not having color and the sufferer not having interest in anything. This typically starts as one beginning to have little to no interest in anything, even if like Linda, you have the world at your feet; from always complaining of a lack of interest, it progresses to apathy and then the struggle to not show the apathy by putting up a façade.
Linda, not wanting to become depressed, depends on the use of pills to live a ‘normal’ life, attempting to bring the ‘colour’ back into her life with something exciting and this she does by committing adultery with an ex-boyfriend from high school. This is a man who constantly cheats on his wife; said wife knows but takes no action as long as he continues to win elections, makingprogress on his way to becoming president of Switzerland. Talk about dysfunctional!
Linda fancies herself in love with her fellow adulterer but sometimes has bouts of guilt, however infrequent. In one of those moments where she feels guilt, she confesses to her husband but his reaction and philosophical approach to it all allows the reader to think he had known or at least suspected about the affair for almost as long as it had been on. This reaction breaks down her walls and she decides to end it all and commit to being happy in other ways. She has a last fling, breaks things off and goes back to her family to work things out. The book ends on a happy note.
Three things got me in the book:
- THE THEORY OF SATURN– Jacob (the ex-boyfriend), while complaining of his unhappiness and why he thinks he is unhappy, mentions the theory of Saturn. This theory basically says that it takes about 29 years for Saturn to return to the position it was at the time of one’s birth. Before it does return, life is for the living; pure fun, dreams and hopes abound and seem very much achievable. Once Saturn however returns to its position at the time of one’s birth, this spells the end of romanticism, choices seem to become binding and definitive, no change in direction, suddenly everything looks bleak.
Could this be the reason for midlife crisis in some? I am a budding student of astrology and find it utterly interesting hence I am going to read further on this theory.
- WHY DO PEOPLE CHEAT? – For various reasons according to the book. The female protagonist seemed to cheat to bring back the spark she was missing in life. The male protagonist, Jacob, seemed to do it because it was available to him. I don’t however believe these were the reasons why.
Linda cheated because her husband behaved exactly like a nonchalant husband; no spark, no twists and no room for surprises in the marriage, every day was the exact bloody same. I imagine that that will be extremely boring.
Jacob’s reason that I inferred was the most disturbing of all. For me it was a cry for help. He wanted his wife to show care, to be angry, cry, throw tantrums, threaten to leave him but every time he did cheat, she shrugged her shoulders and moved on. That is very disturbing. There is no clarity if she is internalizing hurt and will later unleash it (might make for an episode of ‘Deadly Wives’ LOL) or she just didn’t care enough for him and was only with him because she was trying to liver her dream of political relevance through him and if he goes far enough to become president, he will make her the most important woman in Switzerland. In the book he alluded to the fact that the ambition was hers and he was tired of being a people pleaser.
- ARE WE LIVING THE MOST OPTIMUM LIFE? – This is a question for the gods and this is where the relativity in the book comes to play. Optimal is defined differently to everyone. At the end of the day, I ask, is there such a thing as ‘optimum’? I believe that there never is a time where ‘want’ is eradicated from our lives, and for as long as we continue to ‘want’, we will never believe we are living the best life we could be and the possibility of depression continues to exist. This of course is relative! The book taught me to never judge a book by its cover. It carries Adultery boldly on the title page but that is not the central theme. Adultery just happened to be a symptom of a malaise that ailed the female protagonist-Linda. The true question from within the book is ‘What is Happiness?’ Are we truly happy? Personally, I do not define myself as happy; I am often content but not happy. Happiness to me is the absence of want and it is often fleeting. For as long as we are alive, we would want and when what we want eludes us, we settle for content.
This book is not a prose; I refuse to believe it is. It read to me like self-help, self- realization book. The story definitely had many detours trying to explain every thought of Linda which some find tedious and I find utterly revealing and enjoyed every single word.
Paulo Coelho has outdone himself with this one. I eagerly await his next book.