The Winner Stands Alone – Paulo Coelho

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Translated from the Portugese by Margaret Jull Costa

The Winner Stands Alone is a thriller set in the Cannes Film Festival. The main character is Igor, a wealthy Russian business man who is trying to win back his wife, after she left him two years ago. Igor has a very twisted view of how to win a woman’s affection, and so decides to kill a series of people in order to attract her attention. The methods of murder were interesting, as they involved a great deal of skill, and some of the observations about how little people at the film festival notice their surroundings were well made, but the majority of the book was disappointing.

The writing was simple, so easy to read, but lacked the depth found in great books. This book is supposed to be a satirical look at the world of celebrity, but I thought the observations were too close to the mark, and therefore not at all funny. I found the characters to be shallow, materialistic, and extremely irritating, so I developed no empathy for any of them.  The pace of the book was also quite slow, so it didn’t really work as a thriller.

Overall, I found the plot to be too basic, and the ending disappointing. I’m afraid I can’t recommend this one.


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  1. Sandy says:

    You’re always very good at boiling down a book to the bare bones. I like a good murder mystery, but because I’ve read so many, I like mine to have some depth as well.

  2. Jackie says:

    This isn’t a murder mystery – as you know who is killing all the people from the beginning.

    I love a good murder mystery too! I often find them to be disappointing – I haven’t read a good one for a while. Hopefully I’ll find one soon.

  3. Simon S says:

    This doesnt really appeal to me at all but then none of his books have, and what a strange cover. Doesnt seem a Coelho kind of cover does it? Good to the point review, I wont be trying this one out at all!

  4. aart says:

    For me, The Winner Stands Alone is a masterpiece: it talks about values lost and never found again. It looks like a thriller, but it is not – the characters are trapped and manipulated by the people Coelho calls “The Superclass”. Once more Coelho made it. It will not be easy for his traditional readers: either they are going to love or to hate. I LOVED.
    And I also believe Coelho is one of the few writers that are always exploring unknown seas, instead of repeating the same plot over and over again. Kudos to him.

  5. Jackie says:

    Aart – Thank you for your comments. I’m pleased that you enjoyed this book, but it just wasn’t for me. Perhaps it was just too subtle.
    I agree that Coelho has to be given an enormous amount of kudos for writing about different situations, and I may attempt one of his books again in the future, but this is definately a book to polarise people!


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