Veronika, a pretty 24-year-old Slovenian decides to take her life. She survives the suicide attempt and is admitted to the post-Yugoslavian state-of-the-art mental hospital Villette in Ljubljana where she meets the different inhabitants, including a psychiatrist with rather unconventional and probably (definitely) unethical methods.
It’s a slightly cliched setup, but I enjoyed the sense of humour in it, the different characters, their distinct personalities and their rather realistic backgrounds. Coelho wrote this based on his own experiences in mental wards and in those life stories you can tell that he knows what he’s talking about. He also explores the main theme, what is “normal” and is there really someone who fits this, very well and as a big proponent of the destigmatisation of mental illnesses I wish theses questions were asked more often. Like every day often.
The book is rather short though, so I feel like the solution is a bit too rushed/simplistic and while I cherish a positive ending, especially when it comes to this subject matter, I could have dealt without the love story.
Which brings me to my main point of critique, which lost this book a full star: Coelho is a talented writer, no doubt about it and he isn’t one of the bestselling writers worldwide for nothing, but Good Lord in Heaven, can male writers please take a timeout from writing female sexual experiences? For like ten years, as a penance for all the crap that has been produced so far? There’s a graphic masturbation scene in this and it’s so bad, so really really bad, dude, no, this is not what you think it is, STAHP!
Anyway, that aside, the book is good and if you fancy a quick, hopeful, life-reaffirming read about a heavy and quite honestly triggering topic, this is your book.