The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho

Pick up a newspaper or turn on the nightly news and you may think that everyone in the world is evil. How can so many bad things happen in the world? Are there no good people? The novel, The Devil and Miss Prym, by Paulo Coelho, explores this concept.

In Viscos, a tiny village, an old woman named Berta sits outside waiting for the devil to arrive. She speaks with her dead husband who warns that the devil will make an appearance one day. Berta guards over the village for nearly fifteen years. Then a stranger arrives.

Chantal Prym, a beautiful young barmaid happens to meet the stranger in the woods. He asks her to walk with him. The stranger takes her to a spot where he has buried eleven gold bars. He continues by telling her that the village can keep all of the gold if they do one thing for him. The stranger wants the village to commit a murder. As it turns out, the stranger suffered a great tragedy, and he is desperate to know if good people still exist in the world.

Will the villagers commit murder to claim riches? If they do decide to kill someone, which villager deserves to die?

This novel didn’t quite work for me. At times I enjoyed the story. In today’s world, it is hard to know how many good people there are in the world. But mostly, I found the story too simplistic. Without ruining the end, I don’t think the author truly explored the decision of the villagers convincingly. When I finished the novel I found myself scratching my head thinking, that’s it? What happened to the good v evil discussion? What’s his point? It’s really hard to explain my frustration without ruining the book.

Admittedly, I haven’t read any other works by Paulo Coelho, but I had heard great things about him. I expected more. Much more. He has one more book on my 1001 books you must read before you die list, which is Veronika Decides to Die. I really hope it’s better than this one.

Has anyone read The Devil and Miss Prym? What did you think? Did I just miss the brilliant aspect of the novel?

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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33 Responses to The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho

  1. IsobelandCat says:

    I read the Alchemist and enjoyed it enough to try another, Veronica Wants to Die, but didn’t finish it. I felt I was being lectured to and that the whole thing was very unsubtle.

  2. The plot sounds interesting, but no I haven’t read that one. I have had much the same experience though where I finish a book and think, “Huh? Did I miss something?” Then I just figure I’m too dense to “get it”. LOL!

    • TBM says:

      That’s how I felt. This book is on the list and I’ve heard how amazing he is and then I read this and now I think I must have been half asleep or something. Or maybe I’m just a moron and missed all the subtext. Who knows. But yes, the plot soundied promising, but I don’t recommend it. Thanks goodness it’s quite short or I may have considered breaking my rule that I must read the entire book.

  3. Caroline says:

    The problem with Coelho is, in my opinion, that he is a dreadful writer, the style is very bad. I’ve only read him in German and English translations, I don’t know about the Portuguese but since the German and English books had the same style, I guess he really can’t do any better. The Alchemist is slightly better but it is, like most of his books, a rip-off, he steals from here there, everywhere, mostly spiritual texts which are not well-known BUT – desppite all of that I have enjoyed a few of his novels because of the themes and they always made me want to explore things, so I really like that about him.
    I enjoyed Veronica decides to die, I thought it was his best.
    On the other hand he as a writer who gives many people joy and hope and inspires them, no small thing, I just wish, his books were edited.

    • TBM says:

      Good to know that you like Veronica more, since that is also on my list. I don’t know enough about the texts that he lifts from but if that is the case that disappoints me. I would have enjoyed this one more if the ending was stronger. I felt that he petered out and couldn’t really make his point without a cop out–if that makes sense. I don’t want to ruin the book for others. Maybe I should read The Alchemist. It’s not on my list, but that seems to be the better of his books.

  4. Beth Ann says:

    I hate that feeling when you finish a book and think “what didn’t I get?” Sounds like this was the way this one was and I doubt that it was you being a moron—more likely it just wasn’t there!!! 🙂

  5. Geoff W says:

    I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my bookshelf. I’ll have to come back and read your full review when I do finally get around to it.

  6. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I rad and enjoyed the alchemist and bought several more in a charity shop. I can’t remember which I tried but didn’t get very far and decided it was the wrong book at the time and there they sit on the shelf!

    • TBM says:

      I’m finding that seems to be the trend with some folks. I should pick up a copy of The Alchemist so I can understand more. I also wondered if I read this book at the wrong time since so many have seemed to enjoy it.

  7. bebs1 says:

    I’ve read his book once and I thought this story was the Alchemist. Did I miss something? I just thought his book was so profound but I don’t have time to think or reflect, when I read I want to be entertained. Maybe I am just being shallow.

    • TBM says:

      There’s nothing shallow about that. I relish the books that are pure entertainment and I don’t have to think too much. My brain needs a rest and fun sometimes.

  8. Shelley says:

    I knew I had read this but for the life of me couldn’t even remember what I thought of it! I looked back on my review, and I think I felt pretty much the same: http://blog.chainreader.com/2011/03/devil-and-miss-prym-ulysses-survival.html
    I’m also working through the 1001+ list and have not been overly excited about someday reading Veronika Decides to Die, based on this one and The Alchemist. I’m just not a Coelho fan, I guess.

    • TBM says:

      So far I’m not much of a fan but I hope to like the next one on the list. I always hope for the best. I tried leaving a comment on your blog but I’m not sure I was successful. Hopefully it went through. How far are you on the 1001 list?

      • Shelley says:

        I’m thinking maybe since I have low expectations for the next one, I may end up loving it. I have comment moderation turned on for older posts, but I just published your comment. I’ve read 166 on the list so far, but I just went back to school and haven’t read anything on the list because I’ve had so much assigned reading. How many have you read?

      • TBM says:

        166—that’s great. I’m in the 50s now. And I understand how school doesn’t give you much time to read. But I did enjoy going to classes and learning. Good luck with everything. Are you taking any history classes?

      • Shelley says:

        I love my classes! I’m only taking two, but they are both history classes. Lots of reading, lots of writing.

      • TBM says:

        I was a history major. I remember all the reading and writing, but I loved it. Enjoy!

  9. Have you read Mitch Albom’s books? 🙂 I recommend them. Especially Tuesdays with Morries and the Five people you meet in heaven 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t read him yet, but I recently had an interesting conversation with an English chap who really enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie. That book really spoke to him and he ended up looking a long lost friend because of it. I’ll add Albom to my list. Thanks!

  10. Georgia says:

    Paulo Coelho is one of my favourite authors. I really like his simplistic style, perhaps it appeals to my less intellectual brain. I haven’t read the Devil & Miss Prym yet but I’m pretty sure it is on my e-book already. I loved Veronica decides to die so I hope you feel better about that one.

    • TBM says:

      I’m going to keep an open mind. I really enjoyed the first half of this one, but then I felt he went off message. I wanted more on the good and evil topic–not what it turned out to be.

  11. Fergiemoto says:

    No, I haven’t read it, but I have been wanting to read the Alchemist.

  12. zelmare says:

    I’m not a PC fan. I’ve read a few of his books (starting of course, with The Alchemist), trying to see what the hype is all about, but I couldn’t enjoy any of them.

  13. buddhafulkat says:

    I liked this one better than the Veronika book, but I liked the Alchemist more. I really wanted to like this author because I’ve also heard so many good things, but I don’t connect with them in the way I do with other books.

  14. nrlymrtl says:

    I haven’t read this story, but I did read his The Alchemist earlier this year. I felt it s bit one dimensional as all the main characters were male, with the ladies on the side lines being mothers or love interests, etc. I haven’t felt compelled to read more of his works.

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