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The Devil and Miss Prym - Paulo Coelho

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Author: Paulo Coelho / Genre: Fiction

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      05.02.2007 20:12
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      Small town, 1 stranger, 1 decision to make

      The Devil and Miss Prym is a clever story of Good verses Evil. Coelho introduces the two concepts of how evil came about – the early Persian idea that the God of Time gave birth to Good and Evil or the second idea is the story of Adam and Eve and ‘man as the instrument of Evil’. And so begins the story of a young woman (Chantal Prym) and her meeting with the Devil. He has plans and wants to know more about the psychology of people – if good really does exist or if the world balances with evil - leaving Chantal with the choice of riches or death. Chantal could either tell the people of her village that they would never have to work again and the promise of riches but in exchange one of the villagers had to commit murder. If Chantal did not tell the villagers, the Devil would have to believe that there was good in the world but he would also put the offer to the villagers and it would be Chantal who would be the murder victim.

      Even from the first chapter I was instantly gripped by this story. I wanted to know what decision Chantal was going to make as there were several ways in which the story could go but it also got me thinking about what option I would have chosen: would I want to get rich in exchange for a life, be the victim or put my faith in everyone in my town to make the ‘right’ decision. There is a balance of good and bad throughout the novel and comparisons to ordinary things which just seemed the complete opposite to each other including the small village of Viscos to the big cities. Chantal found that even in her dreams she had the good and the bad. At times the book could be written in the past as the village is cut off from the world relying on farming and the more laborious occupations but the stranger changes everything and brings new life with his stories that seem so far ahead of this village.

      The Devil, although not the horned and tailed kind, is a human being like the rest of us arriving in the small town as a stranger and has his own story to tell. I liked the fact that although staying at the hotel, the details he provided turned out to be false as it gave him a much more mysterious air for everyone to discover parts of his life and the numerous ideas of the Devil himself from different religions and countries. The novel in fact has many stories to tell and adds a lot of history and character to make things more realistic. The legends of Viscos actually form a base for the story of Good and Evil and how at one time one triumphed over the other in the village. It made everything much more believable and in the stranger’s case, helped to understand why he was so intent on discovering the facts he was so desperate to know.

      The story begins with at first an old woman knowing the Devil would and had arrived in the village but it was Chantal who became the main focus of the novel. Berta was not reintroduced until shortly after but at the back of my mind she was always there and must have had a purpose. I’m not sure if Berta was a religious person but the villagers certainly didn’t think too much of her thinking she was a witch, and even more funnily ‘allergic to religion’. As the oldest of the village, Berta did in fact help the story along as Chantal was the youngest in the village and passed down some Viscos history, the idea of life after death which did become a little illusory at times and quite a bit of wisdom although seemingly mad.

      There is a twist in the story and it made me even more impatient to get through it as although I had the basic idea, I still didn’t really know what was going to happen and some of the more surprising twists really kept up the anticipation. Viscos was the perfect setting for the story and it had all its separate characters like the priest, the blacksmith and the mayor but didn’t become a kind of Cluedo story where the blacksmith committed the murder in the library with the candlestick. It was well thought out and I really did enjoy it.

      This wasn’t a long book with only 201 pages and the chapters were relatively short so it was quite easy to read most of it in one sitting. There is suspense all the way through it and although the last chapter is not how I’d have ideally liked it to end it was still very satisfying. It’s not often I find a book that grips me from the first chapter but I was certainly not disappointed with this one. ‘The Devil and Miss Prym’ is actually the third of a trilogy by Coelho – this first: ‘By the River Piedra I sat down and Wept’ followed by ‘Veronika Decides to Die’ as they all confront ‘love, death or power’ within the lives of ordinary people. It really doesn’t matter if the other two have been read as I loved it on its own.

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    • Product Details

      A new novel from Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist. A stranger arrives in the small mountain village. He carries with him a backpack containing a notebook and eleven gold bars. Burying these in the vicinity, the stranger strikes up a curious friendship with a young woman from the village -- Miss Prym. His mission is to discover whether human beings are essentially good or evil. In this stunning new novel, Paulo Coelho's unusual protagonist sets the town a moral challenge from which they may never recover. A fascinating meditation on the human soul, The Devil and Miss Prym illuminates the reality of good and evil within us all, and our uniquely human capacity to choose between them.