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Book-to-Movie Comparison of VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE by Paulo Coelho

By Appraisingpages @appraisjngpages

I haven’t done a book-to-movie comparison in a while but it’s still one of my favorite posts to do.  Yes, I’m one of those people who will read a book simply to be able to compare it to the book!  But… also Sarah Michelle Gellar is in the movie adaptation.  If you don’t know about my obsession love for her you simply haven’t been around the blog long enough!

I was also excited to read the book because Paulo Coelho is such an acclaimed writer, adding him to my bookshelf was going to be fun!  Here is the synopsis from its Goodreads page:

In his latest international bestseller, the celebrated author of The Alchemist addresses the fundamental questions asked by millions: What am I doing here today? and Why do I go on living?

Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for: youth and beauty, pleny of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So, on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up.

Naturally Veronika is stunned when she does wake up at Villete, a local mental hospital, where the staff informs her that she has, in fact, partially succeeded in achieving her goal. While the overdose didn’t kill Veronika immediately, the medication has damaged her heart so severely that she has only days to live.

The story follows Veronika through the intense week of self-discovery that ensues. To her surprise, Veronika finds herself drawn to the confinement of Villete and its patients, who, each in his or her individual way, reflect the heart of human experience. In the heightened state of life’s final moments, Veronika discovers things she has never really allowed herself to feel before: hatred, fear, curiosity, love, and sexual awakening. She finds that every second of her existence is a choice between living and dying, and at the eleventh hour emerges more open to life than ever before.

In Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho takes the reader on a distinctly modern quest to find meaning in a culture overshadowed by angst, soulless routine, and pervasive conformity. Based on events in Coelho’s own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Poignant and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.

So my thoughts on the book are pretty polarized based on what Coelho’s aim was.  I have some newly formed opinions on mental illness, especially depression, and its roots.  And the difficult part of this book is deciphering the message Coelho is trying to send.  I completely 100% disagree with the doctor’s view on depression and his tactics, but he is also the villain of the story.  So does Coelho disagree and is vilifying this view?  Or does he agree and is putting the message in the mouth of the doctor?  It’s so hard to tell, and it’s causing me to give the novel three stars.

What really entertained me throughout the novel were the notes from the previous owner.  Here are some examples:

Yes, she is correct, Arizona is outside of Slovenia.

Yes, she is correct, Arizona is outside of Slovenia.


Too crazy to use correct grammar, apparently.

Too crazy to use correct grammar, apparently.

And even though I can’t say I agree with what Coelho’s character roots depression in, I can’t deny that he is a beautiful writer.  This is one of the prettiest passages I’ve ever read:


And now for the movie!  Here is the trailer:

As you can see from the trailer, they took some liberties from the novel.  If you are a stickler about movies matching their book counterparts this isn’t the movie for you; they change the setting, characters, and some plot points.  However, it is a beautifully made movie.  I watched it with my husband and our friend Jen and several time throughout the movie we asked out loud how this wasn’t nominated for an Oscar!  Look at some of these stills:

4DB2CC329DC53379794C6CB682CE24 veronika_decides_to_die01

I was worried when they changed the setting from Slovenia to New York City that the movie would lose the serene, calm, and lonely feeling the book had but I was wrong.  Most of the movie is spent within a hospital on grounds that are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.  I’ve researched up and down where the movie was filmed and I can’t figure it out so if you know PLEASE TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS!

All in all, the movie gets bad points for accuracy but major points for being a really great movie.  What are your thoughts?  Does accuracy to the book matter to you?

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