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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Devil and Miss Prym (2000) by Paulo Coelho

Book Review
The Devil and Miss Prym (2000)
by Paulo Coelho

  Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has an astonishing 30 million fans on Facebook.  That is pretty insane, considering that there are many recent Nobel Prize winning level authors who don't even have 10,000.  With Coelho, any claim to canonical status starts with his extraordinarily large reading audience, rather than any kind of critical acclaim.  The Alchemist is his best known book, much beloved by the type of people who hang "Live/Laugh/Love" type signs above their beds and place credence in astrology.  In the mid 1990's, The Alchemist secured his international audience, but he's done nothing to disappoint since then, churning out a new book every couple of years.

  I've consciously avoided reading any Paulo Coelho books before now.  I've consciously avoided talking to people who read Paulo Coelho books, to the extent that I'm able.  The Devil and Miss Prym, about a wealthy stranger who shows up in a remote Italian(?) village with a chilling proposition: If one person in the isolated village is murdered in the next three days, the village will receive ten gold bars, buried nearby.  The visitor selects Miss Prym, an outsider working at the village inn, to convey the message to the village.

 The Devil and Miss Prym was published in 1992, two years before the 1994 break out year for The Alchemist, which was itself published first in 1988.  The US publication of the English translation arrived in 2000, a clear result of the success of The Alchemist in 1994- publishers go back and find earlier books that haven't been released in the United States, then release them in the US as if they are new works.

  The whole book seemed ridiculous and I thought Coelho's non-specific internationalism was vague and dissatisfying in the same way a Hollywood movie can be vague and dissatisfying when it comes to portraying place.

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