The Devil and Miss Prym
  • The Devil and Miss Prym
  • The Devil and Miss Prym

The Devil and Miss Prym

4.1 49
by Paulo Coelho

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A community devoured by greed, cowardice and fear. A man persecuted by the ghosts of his painful past. A young woman searching for happiness. In one eventful week, each of them will face questions of life, death and power, and each of them will have to choose their own path. Will they choose good or evil?

In this stunning new novel, Paulo Coelho dramatizes the

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A community devoured by greed, cowardice and fear. A man persecuted by the ghosts of his painful past. A young woman searching for happiness. In one eventful week, each of them will face questions of life, death and power, and each of them will have to choose their own path. Will they choose good or evil?

In this stunning new novel, Paulo Coelho dramatizes the struggle with every soul between light and darkness, and its relevance to our everyday struggles: to dare to follow our dreams, to have the courage to be different and to master the fear that prevents us from truly living.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
New to the U.S. but first published in Europe in 1992, Coelho's latest (following the bestselling The Zahir) is an old school parable of good and evil. When a stranger enters the isolated mountain town of Viscos with the devil literally by his side, the widow Berta knows (because her deceased husband, with whom she communicates daily, tells her) that a battle for the town's souls has begun. The stranger, a former arms dealer, calls himself Carlos and proposes a wager to the town: if someone turns up murdered within a week, he'll give the town enough gold to make everyone wealthy. Carlos ensures people believe him by choosing the town bartender, the orphan Chantal Prym, as his instrument: he shows her where the gold is, confides that his wife and children have been executed by kidnapper terrorists (remember: 1992), and that he is hoping his belief that people are basically evil will be vindicated. Chantal would like nothing better than to disappear with the gold herself and thus faces her own dilemmas. Add in corrupt townspeople (including a priest), sometimes biting social commentary and, distastefully, a very heavily stereotyped recurring town legend about an Arab named Ahab, and you've got quite a little Garden of Eden potboiler. But the unsatisfying ending lets everyone off the hook and leaves questions hanging like ripe apples. (July 3) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Tormented by past tragedy and now searching to understand the good and evil natures of humanity, a stranger targets the remote town of Viscos for a spiritual experiment that involves tempting the youngest resident, the discontented Chantal Prym, with gold bars to see if she will hold fast to her religious beliefs or cast all aside for monetary gain. As part of their bargain, Chantal is required by the stranger to tell the town members of the gold, which will be freely offered to revitalize their declining town if they will break a commandment and kill one of their own. This enticing proposition throws all the townfolk into a grave moral crisis. Internationally renowned Brazilian novelist Coelho completes his "And On the Seventh Day" trilogy (By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept; Veronika Decides To Die) with a spiritually intricate tale told in a simple, straightforward manner that allows all to absorb and contemplate. Recommended for popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/05.] Joy St. John, Henderson Dist. P.L., NV Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Coelho's latest parable (The Zahir, 2005, etc.) has vague Kafkaesque overtones as a town is challenged to murder an innocent in exchange for prosperity. The small village of Viscos has a proud past, but at present is dying. All the young have moved to the city, leaving middle-aged shepherds and farmers and a tavern owner dependent on the occasional tourist in search of a mountain idyll. Its demise is only a matter of time as the world is in short supply of civic miracles. When a stranger comes to town, only old Berta sees what no one else can-that his invisible traveling companion is the Devil. The stranger invites Chantal Prym for a walk in the woods and there shows her two burial spots-one contains a single bar of gold, the other ten bars. It is a test for the town, and as the tavern's barmaid, Chantal is the chosen mouthpiece. The village can have the gold if in three days they commit a murder. Seeking an answer to the question of evil, the stranger is betting that humanity is immoral, even in the quaint village of Viscos. An arms manufacturer, the stranger's wife and daughters were killed by terrorists (using guns that he made), and ever since, he has had the Devil at his back and the eternal struggle between good and evil on his mind. Initially, Chantal refuses to speak, afraid of becoming complicit in the crime, but the stranger forces her hand, and soon the whole village knows of the proposed bargain. To Chantal's horror, the town accepts his offer (thanks in large part to the priest, who, eager for the deal to go through, offers a sermon on how the sacrifice of one saved humanity). Now Viscos has only to decide the victim, unless Berta and Chantal, the top choices, can changetheir minds. Filled with Coelho's trademark mysticism and philosophical anecdotes to illustrate a point, the brief tale is made finer by the Kafka- Shirley Jackson-derived motifs-the creepiness of a town eager for a murder offsets the author's tendencies to spiritual pontificating. A bit more playful than some of Coelho's other efforts, and all the better for it.
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Only someone Jesuit-trained could bring to Scripture the kind of coolly passionate imagination on display in Coelho’s latest novel.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“A suspenseful fable...satisfying.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.87(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The Devil and Miss Prym

A Novel of Temptation
By Paulo Coelho

Harper Perennial

Copyright © 2007 Paulo Coelho
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060528003

Chapter One

For almost fifteen years, old Berta had spent every day sitting outside her front door. The people of Viscos knew that this was normal behavior amongst old people: they sit dreaming of the past and of their youth; they look out at a world in which they no longer play a part and try to find something to talk to the neighbors about.

Berta, however, had a reason for being there. And that morning her waiting came to an end when she saw the stranger climbing the steep hill up to the village, heading for its one hotel. He did not look as she had so often imagined he would: his clothes were shabby, he wore his hair unfashionably long, he was unshaven.

And he was accompanied by the Devil.

"My husband's right," she said to herself. "If I hadn't been here, no one would have noticed."

She was hopeless at telling people's ages and put the man's somewhere between forty and fifty. "A youngster," she thought, using a scale of values that only old people understand. She wondered how long he would be staying, but reached no conclusion; it might be only a short time, since all he had with him was a small rucksack. He would probably just stay one night before moving on to a fate about whichshe knew nothing and cared even less.

Even so, all the years she had spent sitting by her front door waiting for his arrival had not been in vain, because they had taught her the beauty of the mountains, something she had never really noticed before, simply because she had been born in that place and had always tended to take the landscape for granted.

As expected, the stranger went into the hotel. Berta wondered if she should go and warn the priest about this undesirable visitor, but she knew he wouldn't listen to her, dismissing the matter as the kind of thing old people like to worry about.

So now she just had to wait and see what happened. It doesn't take a devil much time to bring about destruction; they are like storms, hurricanes or avalanches, which, in a few short hours, can destroy trees planted two hundred years before. Suddenly, Berta realized that the mere fact that Evil had just arrived in Viscos did not change anything: devils come and go all the time without necessarily affecting anything by their presence. They are constantly abroad in the world, sometimes simply to find out what's going on, at others to put some soul or other to the test. But they are fickle creatures, and there is no logic in their choice of target, being drawn merely by the pleasure of a battle worth fighting. Berta concluded that there was nothing sufficiently interesting or special about Viscos to attract the attention of anyone for more than a day, let alone someone as important and busy as a messenger from the dark.

She tried to turn her mind to something else, but she couldn't get the image of the stranger out of her head. The sky, which had been clear and bright up until then, suddenly clouded over.

"That's normal, it always happens at this time of year," she thought. It was simply a coincidence and had nothing to do with the stranger's arrival.

Then, in the distance, she heard a clap of thunder, followed by another three. On the one hand, this simply meant that rain was on the way; on the other, if the old superstitions of the village were to be believed, the sound could be interpreted as the voice of an angry God, protesting that mankind had grown indifferent to His presence.

"Perhaps I should do something. After all, what I was waiting for has finally happened."

She sat for a few minutes, paying close attention to everything going on around her; the clouds had continued to gather above the village, but she heard no other sounds. As a good ex-Catholic, she put no store by traditions and superstitions, especially those of Viscos, which had their roots in the ancient Celtic civilization that once existed in the place.

"A thunderclap is an entirely natural phenomenon. If God wanted to talk to man, he wouldn't use such roundabout methods."

She had just thought this when she again heard a peal of thunder accompanied by a flash of lightning -- a lot closer this time. Berta got to her feet, picked up her chair and went into her house before the rain started; but this time she felt her heart contract with an indefinable fear.

"What should I do?"

Again she wished that the stranger would simply leave at once; she was too old to help herself or her village, far less assist Almighty God, who, if He needed any help, would surely have chosen someone younger. This was all just some insane dream; her husband clearly had nothing better to do than to invent ways of helping her pass the time.

But of one thing she was sure, she had seen the Devil.

In the flesh and dressed as a pilgrim.


Excerpted from The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho Copyright © 2007 by Paulo Coelho. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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