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Book Review: Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

‘Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria.’ Well, guys this is the opening statement of the book ‘Eleven Minutes’ by Paulo Coelho. The author says that this is a story of a prostitute called Maria from Brazil. Contrastingly, no one is born as a prostitute; well it is a story of a young girl who for the sake of love and material happiness gets into the nasty profession of prostitution.


Eleven Minutes introduces us to innocent Maria, who lives in a small town of Brazil. Well, despite this, she is full of aspirations and her very first dream, like most other girls in the world, is to have a beautiful husband, a seafront home, a few cute children, and of course all this should be in the total realms of being highly rich. She is a dreamer but also believes falling in love.

When she’s as young as a school girl, she fell in love with a shy boy from neighborhood. They couldn’t initiate initial conversation because of some pre-emptive hesitation. Well, Maria waits for him but to no avail, as with the advent of next academic year, the boy along with his family gets transferred to some other place. At this point, she feels sad and first time in her life she realizes that love is not something easily available on ground. But still she is hopeful about love. Her parents are poor and when a girl cares about her poor family members it means that she is both bold and caring. She is bound to take a leap in life. She may experiment with her life and prostitution is one such nasty profession she may get into it.

She takes up working in a cloth shop and there the owner of the shop falls in love with her. However this time she, a bit hard on feelings, refuses his love proposal, leaves the job, and travels to Rio de Janeiro, the most happening city of Brazil, by bus in no luxury for over forty-eight hours.

She is nineteen, beaming with beauty and youth. Opportunities are sure to knock her down. When she is at the beach, a Swiss man approaches her for a job in Europe as a Samba dancer. She moves in to Switzerland with that man at the price of five hundred dollars per week. Well, upon reaching there she finds herself tied and that offered money is not enough after deducting accommodation and other bills.

Disappointed she leaves that club and in return gets good amount of money. With that she can buy a farm for her parents in Brazil, but soon that money begins fading away, struggling for a job she goes to Rue de Berne, a downtime in Geneva.

One day she is being called for a modeling assignment but slyly forced to sleep with an Arab man who in return pays her one thousand francs. This act makes her think that prostitution is the easiest way to earn money for her family.

As she begins search for a job, she gets the one in a Brazilian club called Copacabana, this club is a place where high-value clients come to seek company of beautiful but sober girls, if offer comes then the client can take the chosen girl or woman to a nearby hotel. Of course for women working have to abide by certain protocols. They have to pay certain amount of fee to Copacabana.

Here after she meets many clients, sleep with them, but it is surprisingly that despite sleeping with so many men she couldn’t get complete satisfaction – she remained devoid of orgasm. Soon, she befriends a female librarian and starts reading books on sex and farm management.

Then, she meets Ralf Hart, a rich famous painter. He paints about prostitution and in one painting he casts her. Gradually, their meetings grow and they fall in love. From here onwards, the novel begins taking dig at love and sex in a spiritual way. But overall, this book is more of a person’s story than that of a spiritual one like Paulo’s other books. Well, now the question is that whether a prostitute can fall in love or will she be able to return to her homeland after earning reasonable money.

The story of Maria is incredible! Indeed some characters are too naïve to understand the world of desires and adults – you will get the feel through the Maria’s personal diary – that is as good as second narration. The more you read about Maria in this book, the better you understand her - she is either a naïve person or very stupid one.

Through this book, the author tried to assert that in the world everything cannot be standardized, especially sex between lovers. Thus, for much time in the book, there is a hunt for orgasm and a lot of detail about clitoris and what it actuates in fulfilling a woman’s carnal desire. Since the book is more on sex, many readers may feel embarrassed, well if you love variance in your reading, well then go for it.

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