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The Devil and Miss Prym: A Novel of Temptation Harper Paulo Coelho

30th June 2012 Literature & Fiction 52 Comments

A community devoured by greed, cowardice, and fear. A man persecuted by the ghosts of his painful past. A young woman searching for happiness. In one eventful week, each will face questions of life, death, and power, and each will choose a path. Will they choose good or evil?

In the remote village of Viscos — a village too small to be on any map, a place where time seems to stand still — a stranger arrives, carrying with him a backpack containing a notebook and eleven gold bars. He comes searching for the answer to a question that torments him: Are human beings, in essence, good or evil? In welcoming the mysterious foreigner, the whole village becomes an accomplice to his sophisticated plot, which will forever mark their lives.

Paulo Coelho’s stunning novel explores the timeless struggle between good and evil, and brings to our everyday dilemmas fresh perspective: incentive to master the fear that prevents us from following our dreams, from being different, from truly living.

The Devil and Miss Prym is a story charged with emotion, in which the integrity of being human meets a terrifying test.

New to the U.S. but first published in Europe in 1992, Coelho’s latest (following the bestselling The Zahir) is an old school parable of good and evil. When a stranger enters the isolated mountain town of Viscos with the devil literally by his side, the widow Berta knows (because her deceased husband, with whom she communicates daily, tells her) that a battle for the town’s souls has begun. The stranger, a former arms dealer, calls himself Carlos and proposes a wager to the town: if someone turns up murdered within a week, he’ll give the town enough gold to make everyone wealthy. Carlos ensures people believe him by choosing the town bartender, the orphan Chantal Prym, as his instrument: he shows her where the gold is, confides that his wife and children have been executed by kidnapper terrorists (remember: 1992), and that he is hoping his belief that people are basically evil will be vindicated. Chantal would like nothing better than to disappear with the gold herself and thus faces her own dilemmas. Add in corrupt townspeople (including a priest), sometimes biting social commentary and, distastefully, a very heavily stereotyped recurring town legend about an Arab named Ahab, and you’ve got quite a little Garden of Eden potboiler. But the unsatisfying ending lets everyone off the hook and leaves questions hanging like ripe apples. (July 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Internationally acclaimed author and contemporary fabulist Coelho concludes his excellent And on the Seventh Day trilogy with another provocative morality tale centered on a “week in the life of ordinary people, all of whom find themselves suddenly confronted by love, death, and power.” As in By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1996) and Veronika Decides to Die (2001), the characters who populate the author’s fictional village, a moribund community struggling to maintain its ever-elusive spiritual identity, are immediately thrust into the center of the timeless conflict between right and wrong when a stranger bearing 11 bars of gold and accompanied by the devil arrives in Viscos prepared to challenge the citizens of the town with an intriguing moral dilemma. Will the townsfolk succumb to temptation, confirming that man is inherently evil; or will goodness triumph over evil, proving that every human being has the capacity to make his own choices and decide his or her own destiny? These and other philosophical questions are posed by Coehlo in the same mesmerizing, lyrical style he employed in The Alchemist (1993). A natural choice for book clubs and discussion groups. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

The Devil and Miss Prym: A Novel of Temptation

  • 52 responses to "The Devil and Miss Prym: A Novel of Temptation Harper Paulo Coelho"

  • wallstguy
    5:07 on June 30th, 2012
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    Coelho is one of my favorite writers; The Alchemist is one of my favorite books (ever). However, he really dropped the ball with The Devil and Miss Prym. I’ve read 11 Minutes (and judge it a 3.5 out of 5), By the River Piedra (4 of 5), The Pilgrimage (4), The Zahir (4.5), Veronika (4)–so you can tell that I love the man and (most of his books). But this one I’m not even going to finish; there are too many great books waiting to be read. I threw Fifth Mountain away after trying to get into it (if you’re really, really Christian, or Jewish, maybe it will do something for you) and I’ll return this one to the library having read only one-third of it.

    Unlike most other Coelho books, the story is overly contrived, but, more importantly, its characters are lifeless. The characters seem like apparitions of real characters, and this is a weakness almost unknown for Coelho.

    I’m not sure what he wanted to achieve with this book, but I hope his next one reads more like his previous novels.

  • dasein redux
    6:27 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Master storyteller Paulo Coelho’s stories are all semi-autobiographical in nature, read well, are set in fascinating locations, and leave you thinking the author has somehow seen more deeply into the human spirit than most of us. It’s hard to read his books without feeling deeply touched, and The Zahir is no exception.

    There are themes of love, belonging, separation, anxiety, heartbreak, understanding, alienation, need, want. Many settings, in many places including Paris, Madrid, Kazakstan. The themes are ones that absorb all humankind whether we realize them or not.

    I read this book at a bad time in my life, pulling it randomly from my wife’s bookshelf, and being pulled into the book as if it were somehow the correct choice of all the books I could have picked. It spoke to me deeply of love and understanding, in a way that I think many couples, many who have loved or lost will instantly empathize with. Following in the narrator’s steps, we arrive where he does, gain wisdom as he does, and achieve enlightenment as he does. And hopefully, find and regain true love that had been neglected, as he does.

    Coelho’s native language is not English, yet none of his writing feels “translated” or stilted like happens to many foreign writings when they appear in English.

    It is as if the author has a special gift for storytelling that transcends individual languages, the the vast number of countries in which his books have been published seems to support that.

    Whether you are looking to be entertained by a lively tale, or are seeking solace and understanding as I was, The Zahir will fill your need. If you are in need of both then it behooves you to read everything this master storyteller has written.

  • herotino
    7:44 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Once again, Coelho deftly uses his gifts as a storyteller to delve into the meat of the human condition. This “novel of temptation” is in the same vein as Coelho’s The Alchemist, wherein he uses a simple narrative technique to approach some very difficult questions.
    Although one might think it would be impossible to explore good vs. evil without a certain amount of rhetoric, Coelho’s approach is fresh and does not resort to the usual cliches. The heroine does not shine and the villain is a victim of circumstance. In the two characters we see both sides of ourselves.
    The book reads like a morality play in that the town of Viscos is Everytown and the Stranger is Everyman. Coelho has brought on the renaissance of the parable as an art form and should be commended on his ability to explore truth without grandstanding. This is a book that should humble even the most saintly of readers.

  • coola
    8:11 on June 30th, 2012
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    The art of creating fables had seemed to have evaporated with the growing complexities of modern life, for, a fable, in its essence, has to be simple. Given the technological and related commercial evolution of our social structure, with its pervasive economic ripples establishing new social orders, the simple metaphors of good versus evil, or right versus wrong, had seemed to amulgamate into a fused philosophy of confused morality. This book, in my opinion, is a definition of a modern day fable which lays bare the eternal battle of good against evil that ubiquituously occupies the consciousness of every human, providing a succinct analysis of the fundamental basis of the human character, in a simplistic manner. Through some realistic characterization the author succeeds in embarking the reader into a voyage of self discovery of the basic nature of the battle that rages inside all of us, all the time.

  • Sue Gnagy Fegan
    10:19 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The struggle between good and evil is a topic that has occupied the minds of men throughout the ages. Poems, stories, and novels have been written with this contest as its theme, yet few I wager have been penned as compellingly as today’s tale by Paulo Coelho.

    This author who has won a number of prestigious awards, confines his narrative to a one week period and follows what he has been quoted as believing – that one man’s life is every man’s.

    A stranger arrives in the secluded mountain village of Viscos. This is the place that Chantal Prym would give anything to escape, and she is one of the first to speak with the newcomer. He is carrying 11 gold bars and a notebook. He explains that he is seeking help in answering an important question – are people basically good or are they evil?

    It is the stranger’s belief that under certain circumstances every human being would, indeed, do something evil. Were Chantal to prove this to be true she could escape the confines of Viscos and begin a new life. However, committing such an act would be against all she believes to be right and true.

    What will her choice be and how does this challenge affect the other villagers?

    Tony nominee and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Linda Emond gives a breathtaking voice performance as Coelho’s thought provoking story is revealed. Few who hear it will soon forget it.

    – Gail Cooke

  • Henry Fawcet
    10:44 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I have read the Alchemist and 11 Minutes, and read the summaries of some of the
    other stories, such as Veroncia Decides to Die. All have good life lessons, BUT has
    anyone noticed that the lead female characters seem to be either heavily depressed,
    only able to make a living selling them selves, or easily swayed into doing evil? But
    the character in the Alchemist, is a boy and he is successful, smart, and he is to
    pursue his dreams above all else, while his future wife sits at home in the desert
    doing nothing? I really, enjoyed the message and all the hidden symbolism in Coelho; books, but I could not help noticing that he really lowers a woman’s status in the process. And out of respect for the Women in his own country of Brazil
    and South America, there are many many successful women. And men who recognize this and find it admirable.(yes, i have been to South America, Brazil and Chile, Argentina)

  • mrsfgg
    12:47 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I’ve returned once again to one of my favorite authors to review his latest work. Paulo Coelho of international fame for The Alchemist, 11 Minutes and The Devil and Miss Prym, has released his latest The Zahir. According to the book, the Zahir in Arabic means present, visible, incapable of being unnoticed. It is something that grabs our thought, mind and spirit and demands our full attention. It is believed to lead to either Holiness or madness. In this book, the Zahir is a woman, an idea of a woman, a longing. Our main character sounds very familiar to our author; in fact our hero is a famous author now living in Paris, with his books being published in nearly every language. (which sounds like Mr. Coelho. This book is being published in 50 countries/languages this year alone. [...]) The author writes books that millions love, adore, and claim changes their lives. Yet he appears to have stopped living the type of deliberate life he writes about. He has settled into a complacent life.
    Then one day his wife disappears. Over time she becomes his Zahir; he writes a book about love and for a while the Zahir fades. Then he meets the man he believes she had left with and the Zahir returns.
    This is a wonderful story about becoming, and remembering who you were meant to be, not who you settled into. It will stir in you a passion to be more than you think you can be, and, to give more, and love more purely. Follow a man who goes in search of an estranged wife, only to find himself.

  • educator
    13:33 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I will agree with other reviewers that this book is not an easy read. However, it also spoke to me on a level I had not expected, and provided a sort of therapy for which I was desperately in need. As luck would have it, I picked up the novel in the airport book store. My ex-husband had unexpectedly passed away a few weeks prior, and my daughter and I were on our way to visit his family in France. During the vacation, I found myself reading the book, and also retracing the steps of our life together, the years living abroad, the ways we changed each other and the bitterness of losing that love. This book has an emotional truth to it that helped me through a difficult time, and made me think about the difference between love and obsession.

  • okpay gordon
    13:45 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    When the stars align in such a way and time is right only then can the right person appreciate the right book. If you do not enjoy this book then perhaps it wasn’t your time to read it or simply you didn’t understand the true value of it.

    For me the timing was perfect and I could relate perfectly to this book. The book transformed itself and reveiled a more complex plot than one of a man obsessed for his wife. This book will take you on a journey within what love really means (or could mean). Before you look beyond you may search within.

    Relating to the author is easy because he speaks in a candid way, so simple and honest. The main character in the book explains things in his life just the way they really exist in all of our lives. He expreses every detail, thought and meaning as he sees it.

    We will all experience a Zahir in our life at one time that is for sure. Reading about it enlightens us and makes us become more in touch with our soul and just a small step closer to understanding meaning of life.

  • James D
    15:51 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Loved this one and it was well worth waiting until I could find time to read it. Paulo Caelho again found a simple way to make me look at myself and vow to be just a little better while giving me a great read … with a plot. My favorite kind of lesson!

  • Barry Obama
    16:44 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This is not the best I have read from Paulo Coelho, but as always I know I’m going to remember some of the profound messages it portrays. I’m still thinking about `Eleven Minutes’ some two years on, and `The Alchemist’ was apparently life-changing for many of the 27 million who have read it (so far). Of course the writer has his critics but I wonder if some of those are on his wavelength, or even have the capacity or desire to be. In The Zahir, a man with no name wonders why his wife of ten years has left him, and as is the case with most of Coelho’s novels, a pilgrimage begins which leads the central character to question his or her purpose in life and the things that truly matter. In this novel the unnamed man is a very successful writer, which I personally found uncomfortable because I was constantly wondering if this tale was partly or even wholly autobiographical; Coelho acknowledges that at least one of the characters is based on a person with the same name and nationality, and the book itself is dedicated to the author’s wife Christina – could she be, in fact, the Zahir who becomes something of an obsession in the unnamed writer’s life? Personally I found this lingering doubt to be a distraction, particularly because the writer speaks somewhat arrogantly if not egotistically about his career and achievements, and I would hope that this differs from Coelho in real life.

    Despite the theme of love and its eternal energy that we are indirectly urged to embrace, the central unnamed character gives the impression of a man with somewhat shallow feelings; he has been married three times or more and even in his latest marriage he concedes to occasional acts of infidelity which in my view serve to undermine his credibility as a man worthy of the woman he is married to. He finds new `love’ not long after his wife’s unexplained disappearance and continues to flirt, or invite sexual encounters, so I for one felt unattached to his emotional dilemma.

    In spite of that, there was plenty to make me think about some of those intellectual, philosophical and spiritual issues that seem to occur in most of Coelho’s work. Some of his observations border on the cynical, for example his compartmentalisations of relationships in high society or simply between a husband and a wife, the observations made have a touch of condescension about them yet maybe they are more accurate than some of us would like to think. Central to this line of thinking is that age-old question : `What is love?’ and to an extent the author tries to offer his ideas of what love is and more often his opinions of the hypocrisies and denials many of us live within during our married lives. As in Eleven Minutes he dehumanises love (or at least our popular conception of it) and presents us with a picture of the love that we can find at the end of a spiritual tunnel, a painful one that we seem to have to traverse in order to find it. It’s a difficult subject to approach and is bound to attract criticism but the open-minded reader will find it interesting and perhaps worth pursuing. I don’t think I read anything categorically new in The Zahir but it was elegantly written and is a worthwhile read for anyone looking not so much for the meaning of life, but the purpose of it, and the things that really matter.

  • Noah Glaser
    18:41 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The Alchemist, Eleven Minutes and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept are magnificent stories, but undoubtedly, The Zahir is Coelho’s most profound novel to date. This beautiful story explores the significance of life through the transformation of the book’s narrator, a self-consumed author obsessed with finding his missing wife. The narrator guides the reader through his poignant exploration of mysticism and love. This brilliant book is infinitely enjoyable. It will metamorphose the psyche, altering our society’s paradigmatic perspective on matters of the heart. The Zahir is an exceptional tale and its essence resonates within my consciousness every day.

  • Karen Vertigan Pope
    19:55 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Thought provoking, riveting and powerfully written. I’ve had it for months where it was alternately sitting on my bookshelf or nightstand. I finally decided to read it, choosing from among dozens also waiting to be read and then left it for several more days in the living room. I finally got to it and feel renewed and refocused on enjoying life, being thankful and not letting FEAR torment me. It came to me to be read right when I needed it, reaffirming the messages in the book, thank you. An empowering and enjoyable, highly recommended read.

  • Paratrooper
    21:59 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    “The Devil and Miss Prym” is certainly no “The Alchemist.” I learned a long time ago that the gem of a story that I stumbled across in “The Alchemist” could never be matched by the same author; however, there still are some stories worth telling and worth reading by Paulo Coelho. “The Devil and Miss Prym” also lacks the simple spirtual mystisism and focuses more on specific religious traits.

    This story is about the struggle of Good and Evil within humanity. One of the most interesting facet of this particular tale is the explored differences between group mentality and individual morality as both struggle with balancing Good and Evil. There are many small “parables” that add to the customary tale-telling that Coelho readers have come to love: small pieces of wisdom in a simple story woven throughout the larger story.

    While “The Devil and Miss Prym” is definately worth reading, in my opinion it is not worth the $24.99 hardcover price tag. This story seems more forced and over explained; however, this may be the nature of the story since it is not a personal journey but rather the life of a small town over the course of one week. At many times the focus of the story shifted from being a personal story about Miss Prym to a group-oriented story about the town.

    Do not expect another “The Alchemist” when you read this fable-esque story. There are some wonderfully crafted moments of wisdom throughout this story, but they never seem to be that important or life-altering.

    As for the publication as a whole, I personally cannot stand the way the pages are cut and printed. “The Devil and Miss Prym” has those torn edges and every page is a different size to make it look like an older tome. However, the cover art is beautiful.

    Recommended for Coelho fans and those people that enjoy short, easy reading stories with little gems of wisdom throughout.

  • D. C. Toedt
    23:27 on June 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I love this book, though it is not as compelling as The Alchemist. This book asks what a person’s true nature is– good or evil. The narration is great, and so is the character-development. I like the portrayal of good and evil and how these two forces struggle in the characters of the “stranger” and Ms. Prym, and all the other simple people in the little town of Viscos. Read it. You might actually like it, too. All I know is I can hardly put the material down.

  • Glenn Mosser
    1:28 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Paulo Coelho in my opinion is the best writer I have read in my life. He astonishes me with his natural talent and his insight.

    The following quote in this book sums up all of his writing that I have read.

    “Everything thats written in my books is part of my soul, part of the lessons Ive learned throughout my life, and which I try to apply to myself. I am a reader of my own book.” (This is what makes his books phenomenal. I attempt write this way in my books.)

    The Zahir invites the reader on a man’s quest to find his missing wife. This quest is a mysterious journey of self exploration and meaning in life. Along the way the author brilliantly integrates Universal principles of life and profound insights into successful and meaningful living. Enter the world of the Zahir and allow yourself to experience the adventure and wisdom that lies in these pages. Its brilliant, creative, thought provoking and a must-read for the seeker of Truth.

    Some key insights and lessons contained in this book are:

    Live in the moment

    Love is the Energy of the All-Powerful Universe

    Follow the signs placed in front of you by the Universe

    Everything in life has a specific meaning

    Live unique and creatively- Do not just do things because people say so.

    Embrace the precious gifts in your life.

    Follow your dreams.

    Go beyond what you believe your limits are.

    Dare to take risks and welcome change in your life.

    Don’t believe the story society tells you.

    Stop being who you were and become what you are.

    The Zahir is highly recommended and I suggest you read and live his books.

    I wish you great success on your precious journey of life.

  • Aaron L
    2:05 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Book has been the topic of much discussion
    with my friends. On the one side it is about obsession
    on the other it may be a cover for one’s actions.

    Another great read by this greatwriter.

  • Jon Robinson
    3:57 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I’ve returned once again to one of my favorite authors to review his latest work. Paulo Coelho of international fame for The Alchemist, 11 Minutes and The Devil and Miss Prym, has released his latest The Zahir. According to the book, the Zahir in Arabic means present, visible, incapable of being unnoticed. It is something that grabs our thought, mind and spirit and demands our full attention. It is believed to lead to either Holiness or madness. In this book, the Zahir is a woman, an idea of a woman, a longing. Our main character sounds very familiar to our author; in fact our hero is a famous author now living in Paris, with his books being published in nearly every language. (which sounds like Mr. Coelho. This book is being published in 50 countries/languages this year alone. The author writes books that millions love, adore, and claim changes their lives. Yet he appears to have stopped living the type of deliberate life he writes about. He has settled into a complacent life.

    Then one day his wife disappears. Over time she becomes his Zahir; he writes a book about love and for a while the Zahir fades. Then he meets the man he believes she had left with and the Zahir returns.

    This is a wonderful story about becoming, and remembering who you were meant to be, not who you settled into. It will stir in you a passion to be more than you think you can be, and, to give more, and love more purely. Follow a man who goes in search of an estranged wife, only to find himself.

    (First Published in Imprint 2005-09-14 as ‘Is your objective very visible?)

  • Krista Smith
    4:39 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    At the beginning it seems you are up to another great Coelho’s novel, but then cohesion is lost, and so are we. The story begins to hop from one theme to another,….. the structure is lost. Still, you will find the usual capsules of inspiration, but isolated.

    This makes me wonder why so many people around the world loves his novels. As Coelho acknowlegdes within the novel, he manages to write some little provocative ideas, that somehow have a different meaning for each reader, but inspirational, based on our own life experiences and troubles, and voilà…!, the recipe for success lies on the readers interpratation and inspiration they get from these little capsules of philosophy you find scattered in Coelho’s novels. The Zahir at least let me understood why poor novels such as The Alchemist achieved such a success among adults (even though I think is great for pre-teens).

    You will be better off reading Eleven Minutes, definitively a real novel.

  • Clubber Lang
    5:23 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    one of the best descriptions of the human condition I ever read. Direct, interesting, full of examples, and instead of trying to have a manicheistic end, leaves to the reader the conclusion. This is what is brillant in this new Coelho title – no easy solutions, but at the same time no complicated pseudo-philososophical speculation. It is up to us to use self-control to avoid some natural human destructive instincts

  • HLector
    6:26 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    It takes a bit to get into, but this is a wonderful tale of relationship from a male point of view. As a woman, it was so enlightening to me. I liken it to a musical “impromptu” — not a piece with defined limits, but one with a journey. …and a conclusion! Masterful writing.

  • Ugly Truth
    7:19 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book received such praise, and certainly others who have reviewed it on Amazon include such hyperbole as “THE BEST EVER!!!”. I’m at a loss to understand this. The story bumps along akwardly at the beginning – the plot gears up with all the smoothness of an organ grinder just beginning to turn the crank. Once the story gets going, it really does become compelling, and the middle of the book provides much food for thought. The ending has glimpses of the profound, but is rather messily and hastily tied up and dumped at the curb. One piece of the resolution (I won’t give it away) has no foundation in the many “deals” made between the two main characters – and I ripped through the pages several times trying to find the explanation I surely had missed, only to toss the book aside frustrated when I didn’t find it. All in all, the author has an eye for a topic, a good idea how to frame the debate, but the story needs a lot more tightening up to really pull it off.

  • google sucks
    8:05 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This was a very intriguing book. It was so good I read the whole thing the same day I received it in the mail.

  • a new job
    9:16 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I am new to Coelho’s books and having recently read (and really enjoyed) “The Alchemist”, I thought I would give his latest work, “The Zahir”, a look. I found this book insightful, thought provoking and spiced with little gems of wisdom. A page turner right up until the climax at the end of the book. Well worth the read.

  • Evan Willams
    9:33 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This is interesting but not as good as The Alchemist. It lags in the middle and the narrator is a bit obnoxious. It does contain, however, some interesting ideas, particularly when it comes to relationships and the past. The part I thought was most interesting is the idea of leaving your own story behind, of agreeing that the past is the past and to move on.

  • Dalles campus
    11:16 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of his others but it was interesting and thought provoking.

  • Rick Wolff
    11:55 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I am an avid fan of this writer, and the more of his work I read the more I enjoy him. There are books he’s done which I don’t care for–for example, ‘The Zahir’–but when he does his job well, I think he is fantastic. ‘The Devil and Miss Prym’ is a book where he’s done his job extremely well. The plot is compelling and understated. The prose is simple and clear. The way things are resolved makes it seem, to me at least, like magic can actually happen in ways that we might never expect.

    What else can I say? This book is marvelous, and I think everyone ought to read it.

  • Matt McHugh
    12:49 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This is the first book iv read by paulo Coelho and i’m fascinated. Most people conform to the rigid rules of society which really do annoy us but we keep following them because we think they’re the only way we can survive in today’s world. Coelho writes about leaving those rules to some extent behind us and focusing more on how short life is…how even the smallest thing we do can bring us joy and we should enjoy those small things while we still can. To be passionate, loving and live for every moment in life. A powerful novel which makes you really think. Think about what life really is and whether you are really happy the way you are.

  • crazyamerican
    13:20 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Like many other reviewers that preceeded me, I am a longtime admirer of Coelho’s books. From the time he wrote “The Alchemist” to “Eleven Minutes”, his writing seemed to only get better. After I learned about the publication of “The Zahir” earlier in 2005, I made it a must to read it.

    I was dissapointed for most of the book. By the time I reached two thirds of it, I had spotted the pearls of wisdom that Coelho has gotten us used to. But the book failed to retain my interest. In Amazon-speak, at that point it was not more than a three-star book. But I must acknowledge that the latter third of the book made me pick it up with more excitement about what was left. Without going too much into the story (which you probably know by now), it was at this point that his storytelling abilities really started to shine, like in the best of his works, getting to the peak of his potential toward the last few pages.

    If you are no die hard fan of his work (or any author’s work, for the matter), I doubt you will be willing to wait “so long” before you loose your interest in it. Therefore, I can only give it four stars. For Coelho’s best works, go to “Veronika Decides to Die”, “The Devil and Miss Prym”, “Eleven Minutes” or “The Pilgrimage”.

  • Charlie Lee
    15:25 on July 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The theme of evil verses good is explored in a way that really makes you reflect on how we ourselves conduct our lives. Evil is such a strong word and we certainly do not wish to be associated with it, but it asks of you where you may have been evil in some small way. Coelho is always challenging us in our own world, it is just that it is done in such a subtle way as a fable that we can just read it as such. But is that all there is to it or is there that challenge to explore our own lives? Very well written and very engrosing.
    Dr Gunta Krumins-Caldwell author of On Silver Wings

  • garylawis
    16:02 on July 1st, 2012
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    A thought provoking book on the concept of Good vs Evil in the human soul. Coehlo writes a simple but powerful message in an easily accessible style and provides the readers with a glimpse of the human paradox that is the capacity to contain both dark & light in the same soul. Coehlo extends this exploration into the similarities between the collective & individual soul, and the need for the individual to rise above the evil of the collective.

    The story is translated so one is never sure what has been “lost in translation,” but there are sufficient pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the story to keep one thinking while enjoying an easy, quick read. My favourite comes when the sweet Miss Prym has to make her critical choice: “There are only two things which prevent us from achieving our dreams: Believing them to be impossible, and seeing these dreams made possible by some unexpected turn of Fate. For at that precise moment all our fears surface: the fear of setting off along an unknown road; the fear of a life full of new challenges and the fear of losing everything that is familiar.” (Pg 34)

    The morality of the story is perhaps too explicit, but can be excused because it’s presented so simply that one can take it or leave it, depending on one’s personal response to the issue being examined.

  • Gaurang
    17:58 on July 1st, 2012
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    We often get rapped up in our busy lives, obsessed with work and responsibilities. We search for meaning in our every days and fail to clearly understand what it is that we should really strive for, what makes us happy, do we love or co-exist…. In our search process we close our eyes to reality, we get afraid to hear the truth, we are opinionated and smart, and we can figure this out even if takes a life time. And suddenly our whole world goes bust…only to make us realize that we knew the truth all along, that our might and wisdom is within us.

    This is a very inspirational, spiritual, wise and psychologically challenging novel. If your heart is open and your soul seeks the truth, absorb yourself in it.

  • Jenni
    19:05 on July 1st, 2012
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    This is my first Coelho book though everybody tells me I should have read the Alchemist first. Whatever; I received this as a birthday present from a dear friend and so began reading it with warm and fuzzy feelings. I felt the beginning was a little disappointing, there was something stilted and unrealistic about the scenario which might be put down to the translation? I don’t know. But then the book came to life for me about halfway through. I enjoyed knowing about the devils and the angels and the conflicts they suffered within the main characters. By the end I was entranced, though my own devils and angels were arguing over whether I could stretch my boundaries of belief to allow myself to accept the idea that an entire village would pick on this little old lady who hadn’t done anything wrong except babble to her dead husband (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In the end it was an easy, enjoyable read.

  • Mostly.d
    19:49 on July 1st, 2012
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    I loved this book … am scratching my head at the some of the negative comments. Some of the most clever, thought-provoking gems are hidden in the middle section that one reviewer considered “rambling” … I think a more careful read would elicit a different response. Coelho is known for his layered prose, and this is no exception. Given the times in which we live, the struggle between good and evil resonates heartily with those of us who so desperately ask “why?”. Although this book does not definitively answer that question, its hidden wisdom is thought-provoking and genuine. I heartily recommend it.

  • izmirkurye
    20:26 on July 1st, 2012
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    British stage, film and TV actor Jamie Glover gives a sterling performance, immediately intriguing listeners with a mesmerizing story of obsession. Told in the first person by a nameless narrator, Glover ably carries us along on a journey, a search not only for a loved one but also perhaps for meaning, answers to the riddle of life.

    The narrator is a successful author living in Paris with his wife, Esther, who is an accomplished journalist, a war correspondent. She has just returned from Iraq only to disappear again. It’s not known whether she ran away or was kidnaped, whether she is alive or dead. She was last seen with a man younger than she, a man who hid his true identity but was known as Mikhail. Could he be her lover?

    According to author Coelho the idea of the zahir stems from the Islamic tradition, it means “incapable of going unnoticed. It can refer to an object or a person, and that object or person gradually takes over our every thought, until we are unable to think of anything else. This could be considered a state of holiness or a state of madness.”

    We’ll leave it to the listener to decide which description is most appropriate for our narrator as he undertakes a journey to find Esther. He knows that she felt a deep unrest and was unsatisfied with her life, although he cannot comprehend why. He was stunned when she announced that she wanted to become a war correspondent, yet he also understood that he could not stand in her way.

    Brazilian born Paul Coelho (The Alchemist) is very much a fabulist, an extremely fine one. His works have been published in 150 countries and translated into 59 languages. Obviously, his appeal is immense. For this reader/listener one reason so many are drawn to him is that he causes us to think, to probe deeply within ourselves and perhaps reassess what is truly important and what is not. He seems to be reminding us that we change, life changes.

    Whether my assessment is correct or not the works of this author are gifts, radiant, compelling, and utterly fascinating. – Gail Cooke

  • The Scythe
    21:57 on July 1st, 2012
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    I love this book, though it is not as compelling as The Alchemist. This book asks what a person’s true nature is– good or evil. The narration is great, and so is the character-development. I like the portrayal of good and evil and how these two forces struggle in the characters of the “stranger” and Ms. Prym, and all the other simple people in the little town of Viscos. Read it. You might actually like it, too. All I know is I can hardly put the material down.

  • desmodo
    22:56 on July 1st, 2012
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    In this novel, an unnamed, internationally famous author is left by his wife Esther, suddenly and without explanation. He becomes obsessed with Esther’s disappearance: she becomes `the Zahir’ and haunts him day and night. (According to information in the novel a Zahir is someone or something which, once we have come into contact with them or it, gradually occupies our every thought, until we can think of nothing else. The word, Zahir, is Arabic).

    It isn’t clear where Esther has gone, nor is it clear why she has left, and the narrator is suspected of playing some role in her disappearance. He wonders whether she has been abducted, or has she abandoned their marriage? And, if she has abandoned their marriage, what is his role in this? Even though the narrator forms other relationships once Esther leaves, he is unable to move beyond her. He may (sometimes) be satisfied, but he is incomplete. Eventually, with the help of Mikhail (one of Esther’s friends) the narrator comes to realise that he has to find himself in order to find her.

    And so, the narrator embarks on his own personal odyssey to find Esther. He learns that she is living in a village in the steppes of Kazakhstan weaving carpets, and teaching French. On his journey from Paris to Kazakhstan the narrator explores various different meanings of love and of life. In this odyssey, the narrator becomes a modern somewhat muted version of Ulysses with different heroic attributes. The original Ulysses’s physicality is replaced with a newly found sensitivity. The journey and the outcome may be similar in some ways but the process of arriving at the outcome is very different. Likewise, while there are similarities between Esther and Penelope, Esther has established a life which she can live without the narrator. The differences between the odysseys are as important as the similarities.

    I liked this novel. I especially liked the way the narrator came to realise what mattered in his life, and why.

    `We humans have two great problems: the first is knowing when to begin, the second is knowing when to stop.’

    Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • paapaa
    23:26 on July 1st, 2012
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    After reading the Alchemist (which was recommeneded to me by four people) I wanted to read more by this author. This is the best book I have read in a while! It made me reflect on human nature and will stick with me for years to come. The book explores whether people are naturally good or evil. I was drawn in from the beginning and stayed interested until the conclusion. It is a quick and thought proviking read. I then read Veronika Decides to Die. That was also a good book. I just ordered three more of his books, he is a facinating author.

  • b to the s
    0:28 on July 2nd, 2012
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    I have always considered Paulo Coelho to be one of the greater narrators of the human soul. When I picked up my copy of “The Devil and Miss Prym” I was expecting nothing less than perfection, but I must say I was slightly disappointed by the novel. The unfolding of events toward the last 20 pages of the book took on an almost overbearingly farical nature. Portrayal of the villagers, their reaction to the predicament they have found themselves in, as well as their treatment of the “chosen one” seems almost comical, not in a good sense of the word.
    As mentioned in previous reviews, there are some contradictions in personal ideas and convictions of Miss Prym and the stranger himself, but all are intended by the author. It all pertains to the inability of the human spirit to consciously make the decision between believing in persistance of either good or evil. I had to read and re-read the book quite a few times to understand that, and I think that is the fault (or genius?) of the novel in that sense.
    Overall, it is a beautifully written book, as would be expected. Coelho’s storytelling oozes with humility and his love for the human soul. If it wasn’t for the ending, it would have gotten five stars.

  • Dullasser
    2:08 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Did you know that the distance between one rail track to another is exactly 4 feet and eight and a half inches? Is the distance between our relationships always such a constant?

    The book is about the narrator’s search for his missing wife, Esther. He seeks out Mikhail, the man who may be Esther’s most recent lover and with whom she was last seen. Mikhail introduces the narrator to spiritual seekers and he embarks on a life changing journey.

    The book is about love, marriage, and separation. Like other Coelho books, there is a lesson to learn. However, I did not find this book to be as good as The Alchemist or The Devil and Miss Prym, and certainly not as fast a read. However, people in relationships and those going through separation will probably relate more to the book and thus enjoy it more while picking up some useful lessons! There is no denying that Coelho is a great teacher.

    An interesting fact of life he mentions is that many of us have died while living! This statement moved me, and each of us will find a different meaning in it according to how we have lived our life.

  • Therapyman
    3:43 on July 2nd, 2012
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    I hadn’t read a Paulo Coelho book for a while and this book has reminded me what I love about his writing. I am definitely intending to read more of his work. I love the way the prose pulls you in and keeps you interested. There are many inspirational and spiritual passages in the novel which seem to be written with the intention of giving hope and direction to the reader.
    The book is about an internationally acclaimed author whose wife has disappeared. She is a War correspondent and, therefore, the husband does not know whether she left him, or whether she was kidnapped or something far worse. One day a man appears at one of the author’s book signings with a message from the wife to say that she is okay. The husband then becomes increasingly obsessed with idea of finding her. She becomes his ‘Zahir’ which is defined as something which, once seen or touched, can not be forgotten. We follow the husband in his journey to find his wife, and also in his own personal spiritual journey along the way.
    It is described as a novel of ‘obsession’ and, in my view, Paulo has done a great job in writing the book in such a way that the reader has almost a compulsion to read on to find out what happens – almost as if the book becomes an obsession.
    The book isn’t perfect, so I can’t give it five stars. I did find it a bit confusing in places, as there are often long conversations in the book between characters (sometimes multiple characters) without reference as to who is the speaker. Also, the lack of quotation marks at the beginning of new paragraphs when a character was making a speech or talking over a few paragraphs, was a bit annoying and also confusing.
    Finally, I was quite disappointed with the ending; for me it was too predictable and a bit contrived.
    But on the whole I enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it.

  • Erminia Eget
    5:38 on July 2nd, 2012
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    this is such a great story of the journey one person takes to find himself and the meaning of love.

    7:09 on July 2nd, 2012
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    Another fine novel by Paulo Coelho. We find the struggle of temptation, between good and evil, light and darkness. A dying village is asked to choose between losing their soul or sacrificing the soul of another to provide the riches necessary to save the village. The stranger in their midst is also struggling with the same elements of his own soul, as is the protagonist, Miss Prym. Underlying all of this is a village with a history of conversion, choice and the legend of St. Savin and the conversion of Ahab. In the end, we realize that Good and Evil struggle within every soul, and we have the ability to choose. Saints can be sinners and sinners saints given circumstances – it is up to us to control and choose our fate.

  • iblitzkrieg
    7:58 on July 2nd, 2012
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    The Zahir was the first book by Coelho that I read. A friend of mine lent it to me on a road trip, and I found myself not able to put it down. This novel was like stepping into a familiar life, as he provides all the details that you need to know. The book drew me in, and the story of the missing wife and her searching husband was good. My heart broke for the main character, who, through finding himself, solves the mystery of what happened. I promist you that you will not be able to stop reading this one.

  • Tyler Charles
    10:10 on July 2nd, 2012
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    I have read numerous books by Coelho. I kept reading his books because I loved them. However, Zahir is the only book (so far) by this authors I didn’t enjoy. I expected the same emotional depth, search for oneself etc which are the hallmark of his books. Here the narrator appears as rather annoying/egocentric/shallow/superego character to which I had no sympathy. Plus, Coelho’s style of writing seems to become much commercialized, and so different from the past; it is too arrogant at times. Overall I was disappointed.

  • BroTurk
    10:50 on July 2nd, 2012
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    For me, a deep thought provoking book stays with me for at least a few days or even weeks after I’ve read it as I think about the story and the questions raised. I liked this book and it’s a fast read but it’s not a book that stayed in my thoughts for more than a day after I finished it. Maybe it’s just me.

  • Bob Wiley
    11:28 on July 2nd, 2012
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    There is a capacity to do great good and great evil
    inside all of us. This was the first book I read written
    by Mr. Coehlo. Have read them all.
    He is worth reading. Master story teller.

  • Tom York
    12:51 on July 2nd, 2012
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    The beauty of The Alchemist was that in Santiago we had a character to love and go on adventures with. Along the way we learned as the he learned. That is what made it such a powerful book.

    The problem with Coelho’s more recent works is that he seems to have sacrificed character development and storyline for overt lessons. While The Devil and Miss Prym had its moments, I mostly felt like I was being preached to throughout the course of the book. I couldn’t bond with the characters and though there was a story, it was weak. This book had the potential to be much more. We could have become emotionally attached to “the stranger” by experiencing his loss with him, vs. being told about it. It was hard to care about Berta’s outcome because we didn’t really know her. The five paragraphs of the story of Midas pretty much told the story. We’ve heard it before.

    Overall, I found this latest Coelho fairly disappointing. I wish he would to back to the storytelling and allow the readers to derive their own message. What we learn through our own discovery is far more powerful than being conked on the head with the message.

  • Ryan Wentworth
    14:24 on July 2nd, 2012
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    I have enjoyed other novels by Paulo Coelho and was eagerly anticipating this one. I’m sorry to say I was disappointed. The premise of the book seemed intriguing, and the story posed some interesting questions but the writing just never grabbed me and pulled me in. Turning page after page I kept thinking, there has to be more, but the story never delivers. The characters are boring and unlikeable, although it takes place all over the world you never get a good sense of the surroundings and on a spiritual level, the story never gives us that “AHA” moment. It was like anticipating the release of a movie and finding out it’s better as a rental.

  • James Lucas
    16:14 on July 2nd, 2012
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    I bought Zahir when it first launched and then put it on my book shelf. Two days back I suddenly picked it up to read and just finished reading it today. Unlike eleven minutes, this book is more like Paulo Coelho ‘s style. When you are in a miserable time especially in the relationship crisis or breakup, you will be inspired by Zahir. The search for self and broadening perspectives in life instead of being pity for self can always drive us to move on.

  • I say
    18:26 on July 2nd, 2012
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    “The Devil and Miss Prym” is a thought provoking book. Talks about coexistance of good and evil in human nature and how life circumstances can change us each time into either good or a bad people. Talks about how religion and politics can rule humanity over fear. Virtue is one of fear’s faces.

  • J Schick
    18:59 on July 2nd, 2012
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    The Zahir is one of four books I read by Koelho. This book, like all others written by Koelho, is a fairy tale for adults. It’s filled with magic, love, and strength of spirit.
    This is a book about a man who lost his wife. As the time progresses, he goes through emotions of hate, indifference, worry, hate again, desire, and love. You will find a lot of facts masterfully inverwoven into the story (just like in every other story by him).
    This novel makes you think and ponder a lot over the subject you’ve just read about. It is not a fast read like The Alchemist.
    There are a lot of important messages in the book – the ones that give you desire to go further with your life, to pursue your dreams.
    I would definitely recommend the book.

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