What’s Black & White And Red All Over?

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“There is no better time than the autumn to begin forgetting things that trouble us, allowing them to fall away like drifted leaves. There is no better time to dance again, to make the most out of every crumb of sunlight and warm body and soul with its rays before it falls asleep and becomes only a dim light bulb in the skies.”

 This is a common tale of lost love, unrequited love, and a love redeemed. In her thirties Linda is married with two young children in Geneva, Switzerland. She works as a newspaper journalist and evokes arousal in men and envy in every women she meets. Her husband owns a large investment fund which makes him one of the top 300 richest people in Switzerland. She lives in an affluent area in one of the safest countries in the world with no problems to speak of. From the outside looking in they seem to be living the life that most people would kill for. Deep down there are internal struggles that are beginning to bubble to the surface.

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“It’s my lunch hour – my only free time during the day, and when the most interesting things in my life always seem to happen – like meetings with friends, politicians, sources, and drug dealers.”

One ordinary day Linda starts to realize that she is becoming bored with life. Professionally, with only 195,000 people in one of the greatest cities in the world in which to live, being a journalist in Geneva is quite frankly one of the most disenchanting jobs in the world. She needs a beloved family dog to be held for a tiny ransom, or a little touch butt in a crowded subway; nothing sinister, just something to understand that her heart still has the ability to pound like it once did. Linda is a woman that knows what lies ahead on a day-to-day, minute-by-minute, second-by-second basis. Currently she finds herself buying expensive items for cheap thrills and to simply change things up a bit. Like most people she fears getting old and doing irrelevant things like washing the car or yelling at kids to get off her lawn. To their friends and family her and her husband are the symbol of happiness, but even she is starting to have doubts and questions about her perfect marriage with her faultless husband. Scratching the 10 year itch, Linda feels like she is in a trap that she can’t get out of. If it wasn’t “bad” enough the one place where she has routinely found harmony between her inner spirit and the old fashioned je ne sais quois of downtown Geneva has gone to shit. All of these harboured feelings change when she gets the chance to interview a key political figure, and old schoolmate/lover Jacob König. Being around him has brought out a side of her that has been buried for close to twenty years. She wants more out of life than marriage, children, and career and with Jacob she sees some potentially life changing events happening in the future. And when Jacob starts invading all her waking thoughts as well as her sleeping feelings she must win the heart of this man and address her sudden lack of passion and adventure before she settles into a life of redundancies.

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“And we often have a smile on our face and a word of encouragement, because no one can explain their loneliness to others, especially when we are always in good company. But this loneliness exists and eats away at the best parts of us because we must use all our energy to appear happy, even though we will never be able to deceive ourselves. But we insist, every morning, on showing only the rose that blooms, and keep the thorny stem that hurts us and makes us bleed hidden within.”

This book for the most part is a depressing narrative on the formalities of love and marriage through the years in which you are together. Kind of promotes the celebrity marriage theory of one to two years and your out. Live out the good periods of a relationship and leave before the going gets bad. One of the more interesting talking points that this novel makes is the importance of showing vulnerability to your partners. For men this is a hard thing to do as you are instilled from a young child to be tough and when you grow up to be the bedrock of your family. But what you learn from reading this book is that when a man is perceived to be absolute, showing a weakness to their loved one will help them appreciate you more than they initially thought. There is also an interesting perspective on the government’s control of the drug trade. A drug dealing jack-of-all-tradesman, he transforms from a drug dealer into a pastor into a marriage counselor and finally a financial adviser all within a blink of an eye. I remember reading that inner-city drug dealers have all the qualitative measures required of preferred leaders of Fortune 500 companies, I guess this section in Adultery showcased a reason why.

“Every year Europe spends approximately 74 million Swiss francs (more than 80 million U.S. dollars) on hiring private detectives who specialize in following, photographing, and providing evidence that a client’s spouse is cheating on them. While the rest of the continent is in crisis and companies are going bankrupt and laying off workers, the infidelity market has seen tremendous growth.”

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One of the more important things that you can take away from this novel is that if you are naturally an unhappy person all the riches and love in the world won’t eternally change your disposition. You may have periods of suppression but in the end your true self wins out and unhappiness will reign supreme. The book has elements of a typical Coelho novel with some spiritual elements including the experience with the Cuban shaman which was very interesting. The conversation was enlightening for me and provided encouragement for Linda to go all the way. Which may or may not have been the best advice given her state of mind. There was also classic religious undertones to support various trains of thought including the biblical references to adultery and the indirect murder of the unaware cuckolded male. David slept with Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David orchestrates the death of Uriah using war as the means to his end. And like most Coelho novels there is a persons journey to self-discovery as Linda struggles with the whole good vs. evil, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde phenomena. Her journey shows the reader that there is a monster lurking inside us all that is primed, ready, and waiting to rear its ugly head if the situation is not addressed.

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“I ask all those who hope to one day work for the good of humanity: never forget that even if you deliver up your body to be burned, you gain nothing if you have not Love. Nothing.”

I found this book to be flat for the most part. The first hundred or so pages was a constant stream of whining, complaining, and pretending, rinse and repeat. It picked up a bit when things started to unravel internally as well as in the physical world. My only other experience with Coelho was through reading The Alchemist which I absolutely loved. With this book I get the feeling that he should lay low a little bit and build up some reserves rather than continue on the pace he is going. For me I would rather read one amazing book than ten mediocre books. Adultery wasn’t a bad book, it is certainly a quick read so I would recommend it to Coelho fans that appreciate another opinionated view on love, marriage and the troubles that plague those involved.

“It’s true. Jealousy tells us: ‘ You could lose everything you worked so hard to achieve.’ It blinds us to everything else, to the moments we’ve joyfully experienced, to happy times and the bonds created during those occasions. How is it that hatred can wipe out a couple’s entire history.”

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