Book Review – ‘By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept’ by Paulo Coelho

This is another gem from bestselling author Paulo Coelho, of which ‘The Alchemist’ might be his most known. This fable is a beautiful modern love story about a man and a woman, but more than that it is about opening your heart to miracles. Once you start reading this book, make sure you have a few hours available to read it till the end.

Summary

The story’s main character is Pilar, an independent young university student who is looking for the greater meaning of life. Pilar’s life takes an unexpected turn when she is contacted by a childhood friend who is now a spiritual teacher, miracle worker and healer. She is surprised to find out that she had always been his great love. Their journey takes them through sacred sites in the French Pyrenees and the power of love.

More in details

The first time I read this book I could not put it down, once I had started it. Like many other of Coelho’s book, it has the power to draw in the reader, leaving open the question what and how much of his story is semi- or autobiographic or real and where fiction starts.

The book is written in Journal format, every chapter starting with the date and following the journey of the main character Pilar and her childhood friend discovering the love for each other and whether it can sustain their lives’ choices.

Just like all of Coelho’s books, ‘By the River… ‘ also has the underlying theme of religion in a atypical sense. The long-forgotten feminine side and aspect of God, the so-called ‘Goddess’ is present in the love the two characters feel for each other.

The author uses the story to draw the reader into self-inquiry about their beliefs on love, rules, liberation from inhibitions and fear to find faith in humankind again.

About the author

Paulo Coelho was born in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He wanted to become a writer since his teenage years but only pursued his dream much later in life.

He nowadays splits his time living in Europe and Rio de Janeiro with his wife Christina.

Coelho’s formula is to write book combining poetic prose, symbolism, mysticism and the underlying theme to follow your dream.

Recommendation

If you are romantic, then this is a philosophy book for you. If you don’t mind spending some hours reading without stopping, weeping with the character and being swept up and taken on a walk through the French Pyrenees, this is for you.

I have read both the English and the German version and must say that the translations leave some things unclear. If you can, I recommend reading it in Portuguese if possible, the original language that Coelho has written it.

What I liked about this love story is that it is not predictable. Prepare yourself to find out, what really happens to the two characters. ‘All love stories are the same’ is the ending of the first chapter. This one is different.

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