I can already tell that these next two challenges are going to be difficult to write about. In this post, I’ll talk about a book that makes me “happy” and follow up in the next post about a book that makes me “sad.” I kinda wonder what the creator of this challenge meant by the terms “happy” and “sad,” though. I cannot say that a book has ever left me with a feeling of elation, of joy, of wonderment so great that I found myself leaping and dancing and twirling about in a lush pasture like some Austrian governess. Conversely, I’ve never read a book that shook the foundation of my being so much that it caused me to collapse into an inconsolable heap of tears and destitution.
Don’t get me wrong. Books affect me in powerful ways. But I am unable to reduce my reactions to these stories as being simply “happy” or “sad.” Does that make any kind of sense? I hope it does. Seeing, however, that this is part of the 30-Day Book Challenge, I will do my best to provide you, Dear Readers, with a solid answer.
A book that makes me, ahem, “happy” is Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho. Yes, yes, I know, I know. If we must choose something from Coelho’s oeuvre, most would doubtlessly have chosen The Alchemist. And yes, yes, I know, goddammit, I know. It’s a story written by a man about a woman who becomes a prostitute. I’ve heard the criticisms from various armchair feminists. To them, I say, “Whatever.”
I’m a romantic at heart, and Eleven Minutes is, at its core, a sweet love story. Yet it also explores themes of obsession, individuality, and redemption. Our protagonist, Maria, is a Brazilian beauty whose aspirations take her across the globe to Switzerland. Soon, however, she’s run out of money, and Maria decides her only course of action is to sell her body. It’s a decision based on rationale rather than emotion; Maria, after all, believes the notion of true love to be nothing but a myth.
That is, until an artist named Ralf comes into her life. Unbelievably talented, worldly, and wise—and yet just as aimless as Maria—Ralf recognizes the “inner light” in the young woman and forces her to see its beauty for herself. Theirs is a love affair that’s truly passionate and intense, and it’s exactly what Maria needs in order to find a sense of salvation.
One of the things that makes Eleven Minutes such a winner for me is that it is essentially an fairy tale—it’s opening lines are actually “Once upon a time.” Yet it’s a fairy tale that speaks to adults and isn’t at all shy about exploring themes of individualism, love, and sexuality. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, it indeed has a fairy tale-ish ending, one that leaves you feeling satisfied.
Or, dare I say, happy.
Have you read Eleven Minutes? What are your thoughts on it? Or tell me what book makes you “happy,” as it were. Look forward to reading your comments below.