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Review of ‘Adultery’ by Paul Coelho

October 9, 2014

This is not just a book review – i have risked dabbling in our way of life in 30s and 40s as we have in India to some extent 🙂 

Normally i buy Coelho pirated only lolz, so I shouldn’t have bothered getting one from a newly opened bookstore in EA. I did it because I was browsing through it when my husband was here, and he encouraged me to take it. I swear in future i will never get this author rather than from my pavement hawker who sells Coelho for not more than 40-50 bucks.

Mostly a fiction reader, my first serious one after James Hadley Chase in school days was Sidney Sheldon. Tell me, is there more adultery in ‘Adultery’ than in ‘Rage of Angels’ the very first Sheldon I read when I was hardly 14-15? Ever since I remain a huge fan of his, finished every single one of his hot, hot borrowing mostly from a private library in Mylapore. Even Sheldon was taboo for us school girls in those days – i had to hide any English fiction I read at home.

All i remember with Sheldon especially my first novel is about the way he relates to women. There is more steamy stuff in his books that way. But one that does not make you cringe, one that appeals to your sensuous sense if I may term it that way. My first impression about Sheldon was how gently, and how much with respect, he treated his women, even if they were merely fictional characters. After all, I was introduced to the topic of ‘adultery’ by him for the first time when i had just stepped into my teens.

Mostly I have seen that authors from the west treat women with the respect we deserve. Who I cannot stand is our own Indian authors – Chetan Bhagat for instance. When I read his ‘2 states – the story of my life’ to say that I was flabbergasted is the least way to describe my temper. I did write down a blog post at that time but removed it later. Have not seen the picture, but in his book Bhagat portrays as if it is the motto of every single Tamil girl to land a good looking Punjabi guy. Most of my friends who read the book felt insulted just the same way. On contrary, most of us women down south happen to think northies are somewhat effeminate lolz. This is the factual truth. (Serves the Bhagat bast**d right i guess 🙂 )

Indian authors do more damage to Indian women, especially women from the south. Ever since I stopped reading Bhagat – and my friends have too. He is too banal, brains gone to rust. He mustn’t have wasted the IIT-IIM premium seats.

My reaction to Elizabeth Gilbert is pretty much the same. Are we women so vain. May be we have this character streak, thanks to the xx chromosome, but to make women appear so weak appalls me somehow. Grown out of the Mills & Boons phase, sure I do read it once a while just for the heck of it now and then, but apart from M & B, I do not wish to see women so fragile anywhere else. Not from noted authors seriously.

What I hate about Paul Coelho’s ‘Adultery’ is that:

**** The way the author portrays Linda, the woman, as a wanton creature lusting after a man who did not deserve her in the first place. The love is not convincing enough so the entire plot falls through, standing no chance. The lust is not convincing either. There is simply no synchronizing depth of emotions to physical carnal cravings. Somehow Coelho fails to justify the grounds for infidelity.

**** Heroes must earn their respect, whereas there is nothing heroic about Jacob Konig who is depicted as a very shallow, selfish man. Not worth risking anything in life for.

**** Any guy one day younger than me automatically becomes my younger brother lol. Age is a very sensitive issue to some of us. lolz. In my mind’s eye the story falls flat right at the start. Well, we Indian wives have to mother guys we marry – who are older than us as such by a few years. Being with a younger man – young by even a day sounds preposterous to me. First thing some of us women want to see in a man is – maturity. Not neat clothes or shiny shoes. The more messy a man is, the more sharp and witty a man is, in short the more rascal a man is the more we are drawn to him! hahaha.

****Male authors are poor writing first person account/narration from the point of view of a woman always. This is not correct and this will never be natural. Many have failed on this front and so has Coelho.

**** Excuse me i am married for 21 years now. There is not much left in the book you don’t know about by this time – all married couples will have to agree with me. One thing I can still put on record is, how emotions matter very much for women. We do not get turned on just like that, like switching on light or fan, like it is for men. For a woman to get to the level of Linda, the journalist in the story, there has to be a deep emotional connect, an inner build-up first; the body and the mind and the soul have to make this connection – atleast this is true of most Indian women. Once aagain the author is a grand failure here. The prime character in the book loses the respectability she deserves.

**** Indian society is closed, conservative – i come from a generation where we were all chaste, both boys and girls, until we married. Now it is changing atleast in the metros – still India is a culturally sensitive country. I don’t think our husbands would have married us otherwise and the best return gifts we wives get from our husbands is the same virginity. More equality here among genders in India, a surprise. My son I hope will be a virgin too until he marries. I directly tell him the importance. My friends advise this openly to their daughters.  Because our children belong to the internet generation. They don’t think much of the values our generation holds so dear to our heart. So we parents have taken it upon us to address and sort out this issue face-to-face with our kids. Its about time. My husband has not time for this – so I take the responsibility. Yeah, this is all inspite of what is pedaled in Bollywood or Tamil cinema… India is not mere Mumbai or Delhi or Chandigarh or Bangalore where life is fast and a lot westernized. In the part of the world where i come from, virginity is a big deal ofcourse, even in this 21st century. In fact we are a step ahead, read this:

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/furore-over-premarital-potency-test/article6408871.ece

Indian women are very much aware of their legal rights and are not suckers, the way they are portrayed in world media. Let our clothes or way of life not mislead anyone to drawing up wrong conclusions about us.

And I am seeing couples in ’50s having an interesting married life in my city – this is mainly possible because we save ourselves for our partners only. We preserve something so precious, we don’t squander it on passers-by in life. I still stand by old world virtues. May be mentally we can have someone we like and someone who is unattainable – but when it comes to physical fidelity, most Indian women would not dare to cross the invisible ‘lakshman rekha’ we draw around ourselves.

I believe virginity test for girls is not unusual in northern India, whereas in the south some women slap men with premarital potency tests! Just dare us guys!!

This is the real and practical India for you! We have no-nonsense women here seriously. So the type of women like the journalist in this book seem so weak to me. Not that my culture forbids this kind of thing, the journalist seems to be most compromised, so cheap. It hurts being a woman – reading this kind of degradation of a woman whover she is. Men slander women everyday in all walks of life, but I did not expect this from a world renowned author.

**** In our families I had never seen a divorce until one of my own friends got divorced. Our great grandparents, grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, all of them married once, married as virgins, and lived like the albatrosses. India is still such a nation of unbelievable culture. Men or women – marriage happens only once in our lives. Adultery or no adultery – marriage is still the one greatest institution, marriage is the one crop to be reaped of harvests for a 1000 years. In India, it is not individuals who marry – it is families that marry. You have a lot at stake to think about when you want to allow someone into your mindspace – it is not that easy.

**** I am not for women making the first move ever. Unless there is something at stake. Would rather, if it is the man who takes the initiative. No man is worth it, with women taking the first bold step believe me. And if any woman makes the mistake of pursuing someone against his wishes, she will stand to lose not only the man’s respect, but also her own self-respect. She will live to regret it the rest of her life. What is worth more than our dignity.

Woman pursuing an unwilling man sounds worse than Delhi gang rape to me. Would flinch at the very thought. How can any woman for that matter think of imposing her will on a reluctant man. I am yet to see the first case anywhere. Reminded here of the Hollywood picture ‘Fatal attraction.’ Sorry no man on earth is worth going into so much trouble. If not for making babies, men are not necessary at all!!

**** I am all the more peeved with Coelho for making s*x sound so cheap. It is not, it is precious not to be squandered upon all and sundry. Or any passersby. Or is it like that way in the west?

**** Adding up this one point as an after-thought: Adultery, if it happens in the natural course of life, in compelling circumstances, is justifiable. We are all humans. Who is over temptations completely. Some have the restraint, some lack that self-control. Some wish they had had the courage. Or perhaps that quotient of foolishness. What i hated about this book is,how the journalist is on purpose committing adultery – like a well-planned and executed grand strategy.  Its like blindly plunging into a deep abyss not knowing what lies in store.The end does not justify the means. In any case, once again, in my view, scope for adultery is almost nonexistent in middle-class Indian society.

**** Who is not going through middle-age crisis. We all do in our 40s. But in 30s?! To my knowledge, couples in India are married for atleast 10 years just like the jouro in this fiction when in 30s. This is really the discovery phase, when you emerge out of inhibitions. Twenties go up in deliveries, work stress etc. In 30s we know what is our position – by this time, we own our house, car, we have children, we are financially better off = and in arranged marriages for the first time we come to enjoy our private life when atlast we get to know our spouses better. After all, most of us marry complete strangers in our society.  Finally our husbands become truly ours and we get to understand how it is so easy to completely enomour a man and bring him into your total control lolz – especially from your mother-in-law’s clutches that is!! (Well that takes 8-10 years to figure out sadly!) 30s is a phase that sets you free in a way to enter the 40s with an open mind.  We know our men won’t commit a word anywhere from now on, without making eye contact with us first even in crowded marriage halls 🙂 Wife’s word is the final word! Bahu wins in 30s always!! Saas is atlast relegated tot he back-burners! As a woman, as a wife, as a mother – its a win-win situation for us really. We girls all enjoyed our 30s. We were young, our partners were young… Husbands come into the complete spell of wives 100% 🙂 Atleast Indian husbands… lolz. (One blackmail that works – me or your mom?!) (I remember this famous accusation of my MIL in my 30s. The chanting of ‘Lalitha Sahasranama’ makes a woman powerful – over her man especially! which is why my son is dancing to your tunes!!’ hahaha. I gave back in the same breath, ‘you are lucky ma, without having to go to any such ordeal (!), my FIL was still in your total control!!’ )

40s on the contrary see women getting into hell lot of health woes. Words like mammogram, pap smear are all too very familiar. Husbands have health problems too. Where is the energy or will to have extra-maritals seriously. (One is more than enough swears my husband!!) Children in high school or college – children’s future – and all that. 30s are probably the best phase – we enjoy life thoroughly, no health issues, children are still children and well-behaved, and world is at our feet.

40s – Boring because you know you have arrived. Which is good in a way. Position in the family, society is established. Sense of security is there. May be this is why we face middle-age crisis now. We have not much to think about. We have played our turns and we know what to expect. Our hormones go on a swing – we know pretty soon we will hit half century. From there where we are headed, who knows. (Over 30% of my friends have already attained their menopause.)

In 30s only 5 days a month we suffer from PMS, in 40s, all 30 days in the month are PMS days. Our families suffer. Wonder what will be the position of the Swiss journalist once she is into her 40s!

**** I think PMS is what the Swiss woman mistakes in the book for depression. PMS is an issue with all of us women, alright. If i bark, my son and husband automatically swear, ‘PMS! leave her alone!’ If all of us women want to have a man for getting out of depression, what will the world come to?!

**** The drug matter, the Shaman everything is so ridiculous – pathetic. I think I am ready now to write a fiction. I have to find out who Coelho’s publisher is.

**** Geneva seems to be so laid back that I want to go there. But we are on shoe-string budget until our son decides on his masters. All tour plans on hold ever since he came to class 9. Poor Indian parents – 2 years before our children reach the board exam age, we stop enjoying ourselves!

**** Only useful thing Coelho does is being our tourist guide in Geneva. And he comes at a very modest price 🙂

**** After the ‘Alchemist’ and ‘Manuscript found in Accra’ I am convinced Coelho is No.1 con artist who practises a different kind of plagiarism – like quoting from scriptures, etc. ‘Manuscript’ for one thing was never original – a mere compilation. I still liked it because it was a simple, good read – was good to our mind. ‘Alchemist’ bored me. Now i am getting the feel of Coelhi type of thinking and writing, Prose is poor but pardonable given that the English edition is a translation by all means. Or even if its original, the author is foreign so no issues. The narrative is getting on my nerves these days.

**** And I am sick of christianity preaching by the author.  Keep your Christ to yourself Coelho, we will never buy him. Just like we wouldn’t buy your Allah either. For peace loving Hindus, both Christianity and Islam will remain the world’s most violent and bloodiest faiths always. This imposing of religion on unsuspecting readers is awful. Time to quit Coelho, even the pirated versions?

Have read many fictions by different authors from west, that describe the church, the apostles everything – but never felt like being preached ‘sermons.’ This man Coelho is a docile evangelist on conversion spree?! With Coelho one gets the distinctive feeling that he is imposing christianity on non-believers.

**** Family comes first over anything and everything. On that I agree with Coelho. Whether any husband will be as tolerant as the journalist’s husband is a big question mark. In India, the extreme case is, the wife could be murdered for adultery. The minimum we can expect is, the women and the family to get socially ostracized. Heaviest price to pay – not worth it.

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Having said all that, is online flirting adultery?! It won’t materialize and we are safe in the knowledge that we won’t be ever coming face to face with our idols … lolz

 

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