The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho needs no introduction; he is a well known author who has penned down several best selling books. He always tries to explore various philosophies and human instincts in his books and this time round also he has followed the same lines. This time he takes us to the famous Cannes film festival. We all have heard about it and seen its glitz on TV, magazines and newspapers but trust Coelho to be different. He takes us back stage and let us have a glimpse of the empty lives of so called Superclass, the struggle of various people trying to be a part of that class and a peek into the lives of actors, directors, producers, models etc. The book makes us wonder what is it about the Superclass that so many people want to be a part of it even when there is no real happiness in lives of these super rich people and all their glitz is nothing but a façade.

Unlike his other books, this book didn’t make much sense to me and I’m still trying to figure it out. The most confusing character of the book is its central character, Igor. A rich businessman, he becomes a serial killer in hope of winning his wife back. On one hand he kills people in cold blood and on the other his conscience keeps bothering him if all these killings are worth the actual purpose or not. He is shown questioning himself if he has done the right thing killing the victim as she could have gone on to become someone important in life or perhaps he has done the right thing as he freed her from a terrible life. His ex-wife calls him a Devil. Perhaps this is what the author also wanted to portray that we all have devil and the good angle in us, and who actually controls us is the big question.

Another reason that the book didn’t make much sense to me is that the book seems incomplete to me. Igor, after spending twenty four hours at Cannes and conveniently killing people (destroying a universe in his words) he escapes the festival in his private jet. Is this another case of where the superclass gets away with anything? What happens to the two detectives who were assigned this case and who wanted to prove their mettle by solving it? Both of them seemed to have some lead on the case and then in the end, the author just completely forgets about them. I was flipping the pages to find who actually catches Igor and how and just then the book abruptly ends with Igor in his private jet. Somehow, I couldn’t accept it and would have preferred some other ending to the story.

Other than these things, the book has its own reasons to stand out. The most appealing aspect of the book is how the author has put fashion and terrorism in one bracket. While terrorism kills people with a loud bang, fashion kills people slowly without them knowing that they are the victims and their end is near. He beautifully shows us the trap of this glamour world and where the victims can’t even say no as they are blinded by the glitz, temptations, promises and the entire extravaganza that comes along with the package. What one fails to notices is the hard work put in by the people in this industry in the hope of climbing up the stairs and once they are finally there, someone else trudges its way up there too trying to push the others down. We, as viewers see their comfortable lives, the expensive cars, jewellery and the adulation but the mental pressures and tensions escape our sight. The book brings out the latter part in front of us and tells us that all that glitters is not gold.

The message of the book; follow your dreams if you feel you are right and the dreams are worth following but find a new one if you are chasing a false dream. Don’t fall in the traps of glamour, fame and money; give importance to love and relationships lest you lose everything. In this world ruled by fashion, power and money, keep a constant check on your morality. The messages are strong and meaningful, the book flows well and at a good pace, definitely is a page turner but only if the conclusion wouldn’t have been so messed up. The author has shown us various shades of personalities and weaknesses through his various characters and we see ourselves relating to some or the other character. His twelfth book is certainly different from the rest though like others it doesn’t leave you with a positive feeling. Nonetheless, go and read it for his take on the superclass and how he has brought out different shades of human personality.

Shikha Tandon

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