So, I finished reading Adultery, the latest book by Paulo Coelho. Don’t get me wrong – I adore that man – but this book just did not deliver all that the publicity around the book had promised.
When the book begins, you see a bored married woman with two kids. Ideally, her life should be complete but we have no such luck because, when you have everything you want (and more importantly, what everyone out there wants!), you end up wishing that you had something else to work on; as if, you do not deserve the perfect life that you have before you. And yet, you hope that nothing hampers that perfect-doll-house-of-a-life that you lead!
So, when our heroine has to meet an old boyfriend for an interview, they do not waste much time before they end up releasing all the wound up sexual frustration that they have been harboring within them. We are told that it is love, but somehow, I cannot even force my\self to accept that theory. Their love story sees its fair share of adventure, what with a jealous wife and some kinky fuckery (seems like Paulo Coelho is the latest fan of E L James!). We have a kind and understanding husband who is forgiving enough to let her find her way back and (what’s more) he is waiting with arms wide open when she finally realizes the folly of this little misadventure and returns to her loving husband.
And strangely, despite my loyalty towards feminism, I find myself hating the whole female angle in this story. Although it definitely steps away from the stereotypical plot, whereby, the husband plays the role of the adulterer, the story loses its charm for precisely the same reason. You see that the affair is just that; an affair. However, somehow the narrator herself seems to have lost sight of that fact. Somewhere along the line, the female inevitably confuses her extra-marital affair as her renewed pursuit of love, and it is this confusion that leads us to hate the story that promised us so much, and yet failed to deliver.
And for all the buildup in the story, the ending comes too soon, and the conclusion seems all too rushed. Leaving the reader wishing that Mr. Coelho had left us with an Epilogue explaining to us, what in the world that was all about! Because, ‘love’ just does not cut it. And if we compare this book to a magic trick (Prestige, anyone?), the pledge was indeed very promising (with a very promising storyline to boot!) The turn came too close to the end. And the prestige seems to have done a vanishing act of its own!
But for all its faults, you do still get to enjoy the poetic writing every now and then. And this time, the anecdotes come in the form of children’s stories and thus, reminding us of the wisdom in those fables we grew up reading. Also, the story constantly draws parallels between the protagonist’s life and that of two classics i.e., Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. However, I found the comparisons were exaggerated to the extent that they almost sounded comical at some points.
One of the sentences that touched me was Paulo Coelho’s answer to the protagonist’s question on why she was working at the newspaper; “we love our work and we want to save the world.” I believe that just about sums up the reason most of us (at the very least, hope to) give when we talk about our job. If we have a job that pays the bills but we thoroughly despise, the effort involved in going through the motions of each day drains all the energy out of us. This bit of idealism – this hope that what we do has the power to make a dent in the universe, is what drives us to give our best in life!
Another part that piqued me was the point when the lady tells her husband that she regrets everything she’s done, except marrying him and having their children, and the husband’s response is; “But isn’t that what matters most?” For once in the book, I find myself completely in agreement with the woman when she responds stating that it isn’t enough for her. After all, what was the purpose of the long fight for the emancipation of women, if we were all expected to be content with looking after the home and taking care of the kids while the husbands pursued their dreams of climbing the ladder, making it big, and saving the world?
One story that did leave an impact on me was the story of Eros and Psyche. No matter how badly that analogy played out in this story, the Greek mythology cannot go unmentioned here, for the simple reason that, at the end of the day, the only emotion that makes life bearable is love. If love does afford us the possibility of a second chance, it more than makes up for the risks involved when you do let yourself feel that emotion. And, if we needed a fairy tale to keep that candle of hope burning, then so be it!
But if I am to look for the redeeming grace in this story, it has to be the husband’s character. The beauty and strength of his character lies in the simple fact that he is strong enough to realize that he does not constantly need to do things to remind his wife that he loves her. He does not feel obligated to ‘tame his woman’, but respects her enough to give her the space to make her decisions about her life. More importantly, he loves her enough to know that his love for her will never translate into a right he can exercise to demand that his love be reciprocated.
Verdict – I won’t advice you against reading it, but if you know me and live in the neighborhood, I would be more than glad to lend it out to you as an alternative to you buying it!