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The Winner Stands Alone    by Paulo Coelho Amazon.com order for
Winner Stands Alone
by Paulo Coelho
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Harper, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Winner Stands Alone (translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa) has been written by one of the most widely read authors in the world, Paulo Coelho. Sales of his books in the U.S. have reached 5.4 million! That alone would be a reason to pick up his latest. The larger reason is that it is a good read. Mesmerizing. Exciting. Intellectual.

Along with an exceptional plot, characters that jump from the page fully formed, and suspense that hums throughout the whole story, the reader is also treated to the realization that all that glitters is not gold. The time and place is today in Cannes at the Film Festival - where everyone wants to be seen. Stars of yesterday reach for their last moments of glory. The up-and-comings hope to be discovered including those who have spent their last penny for this chance at fame.

Breathtakingly beautiful clothes, fabulous jewels, impossibly high heels, unbelievably expensive handbags, exquisitely tailored suits - all to showcase new films that will make or break those who made them. In this tension-gripped atmosphere, another story plays out. Igor, a very successful Russian entrepreneur, cannot believe that his wife Ewa has left him and taken up with Hamid, a wealthy Bedouin couturier.

Igor's obsession with Ewa is so unbalanced that he is a menace to society at large - as well as to Hamid, Ewa and even himself. His method of reaching out to her is beyond belief. It takes a tortured mind to come up with Igor's maladjusted idea of destroying someone else's world to alert her to his love.

This is a wonderful book. One that demands introspection. And takes a long dark peek at the world of glitz and glamour, which does not come out shining in this compelling account of a slice of Cannes life.

I do not recommend The Winner Stands Alone as beach reading. It takes more than idle hours in the sun to concentrate on the message that Coelho has to impart. And though you may not agree with his take on this make-believe world, you'll have to admit he presents his case with erudite grace.

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