Is this straddling of the line between memoir and fiction successful? Regardless of genre, page after page of flower-power musing, such as 'The Supreme Gift, called Love, will make you an instrument of My words, the words I’ve not spoken but which you understand. The silence will teach you. … The silence may be translated into words, because this will be your destiny, but when this happens, seek no explanations, and urge others to respect the Mystery,' may leave some readers delighted but others dejected. And even for readers who rejoice in mystical, philosophical reflection, these spiritual ramblings may not be a convincing substitute for strong plot and thematic lines, compelling characters and unique insights into the world described.
In his latest novel, Hippie, Coelho follows the story of his younger self and those he met in his travels during the early ’70s. Beginning on the Death Train destined for Bolivia, to the Magic Bus from Europe to Kathmandu, Coelho transports his readers to a time when mass amounts of people could travel through Europe on five dollars a day and find pleasant company wherever they went ... to the rest of the world, hippies seemed to be screaming who they were and what they stood for. In this novel, Paulo Coelho presents a nuanced view of the hippies and gently explores their lifestyle and values by imparting his personal experience upon the reader.
The novel reads rather like a series of impressions clustered around a trip (no pun intended) through Europe and toward Kathmandu. While the narrative is written in the third person, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to identify some aspects of a character named 'Paulo' with the author. This character has linked up with Karla in Amsterdam in September 1970. They meet, appropriately enough, in Dam Square, perhaps the hippie center of the cosmos ... Meeting Paulo complicates both of their lives, however, for she would like him to be her travel companion on a bus trip from Amsterdam to Kathmandu, through Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and beyond ... A nostalgic immersion in the mind-blowing 1960s.
Drawing on his own past experiences, Coelho tells the story of a young man named Paulo exploring love, spirituality, and the world during the 1960s in this uninspired novel...Paulo meets Karla, and they begin the first tentative steps toward the lasting love that Karla desperately seeks. Karla, meanwhile, is planning a trip to Nepal to pursue her own spiritual liberation. After Paulo agrees to go with her, they set out on a bus with like-minded travelers and meet a variety of personalities—all of whom have a story to tell and life lessons to impart—leading to long tangents about life, love, and the spiritual motivations that inspired his years of traveling. Coelho never quite brings the reader in to the main characters’ experiences and lives, but some of the narrative side trips are worth taking. The author’s most ardent fans will enjoy this, but readers looking for an immersive tale with fully formed characters will be disappointed.