A Swiss journalist strives to redress the meaninglessness of her life with even more meaningless sexual encounters in Coelho’s latest pseudo-philosophical screed.
Linda, a respected newspaper reporter in Geneva, is happily married to a handsome, wealthy and generous financier. The couple is blessed with beautiful and well-behaved children, at least from what we see of the progeny, which isn’t much. The vicissitudes of domestic life aren’t Coelho’s concern unless they offer a pretext for platitudes about the eternal verities and The Things That Matter. When she interviews Jacob, a former flame from school days who's now a rising politician, Linda behaves professionally right until she administers a parting blow job. The ensuing affair jolts Linda out of the low-grade depression she has been experiencing despite her enviable lifestyle. Her adulterous behavior disturbs her, however, since she can't explain her own motives. After briefly trying therapy, she consults a Cuban shaman, to no avail (except to generate a successful series of in-depth features on occult healing). Her bafflement is shared by the reader, who will be puzzled by the total lack of any convincing reason why she should be so infatuated with Jacob, who, in addition to being very thinly portrayed, apparently can’t decide whether his amorous strategy should be sensitive and romantic or something 50 or so shades greyer. After a close call—Jacob’s astute spouse almost exposes her—Linda decides that the fling isn't worth destroying lives over, as if these shallow existences were under any threat to begin with. Along the way to this realization, Coelho milks each opportunity to preach—by way of endless interior monologues, quotes from Scripture and talky scenes—sermons about love, marriage, sexual attraction, evolutionary theory and every other imponderable he can muster. Occasional interesting tidbits about the novel’s setting, the French-speaking Swiss canton of Vaud, are not enough to redeem the pervasive mawkishness.
More trite truthiness from Coelho.