Book Review: Eleven Minutes

Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria. Wait a minute. ‘Once upon a time’ is how all the best children’s stories begin and ‘prostitute’ is a word for adults. How can I start a book with this apparent contradiction? But since, at every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss, let’s keep that beginning. 

My second read from Coelho after The Alchemist definitely had me in the beginning. The female protagonist, Maria is our girl next door, having fairy tale dreams of meeting a rich man, getting married, settling down with a good fortune, but as we progress, we find ourselves empathising with her. Then she takes a trip to Rio and makes an unwise decision to leave Rio on a Swedish stranger’s promise of fame. Maria’s roller coaster ride begins as a restaurant dancer and ends as a prostitute in Copacabana. During this entire ride, she meets different people, she learns a new language and culture, confronts Virgin Mary, discovers the dark side of love, gets desensitised, dismisses love and finally falls back in love again, but this time with no restrictions on how love should treat her.

And then one day, she meets Ralf, an amazing artist, who consecrates the “light” she radiates. And then she finds, Terence, who introduces her to masochism, with the pain giving her a sense of freedom and bringing her closer to God. And now, she has to choose between the two. There are graphic descriptions of various sexual acts, sex education and even the history of prostitution talking about the concept of sacred prostitution. Huh, why?Also, why is every top executive/rich man in Geneva so dejected with life? Again, exaggeration and not observation. And dear author, clearly sex is not the sole solution for every problem in life.

The philosophical exploration of sexual love, using Maria’s not so philosophical diary entries seemed hyperbole, though there were some really good one-liners there. Call me a sadist, but I wasn’t expecting a happy ending, I was hoping for something more realistic than the two lovers uniting at the Paris Airport.
The characters are good, the story loses the track in between, the philosophical exaggerations leave you in a state where you start thinking why did you even pick up this book in the first place. I am going to re-read The Alchemist soon.

My Rating: 2.5/5
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