Paulo Coelho – ‘Hippie’ Review

The acclaimed Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s book ‘Hippie’ explores the love, drug fuelled hippie culture and traditions of Europe in the 70s. However, Coelho’s storytelling in this travel-novel fails to reach the levels of some of his much-admired cult classic novels.

A young, skinny Paulo Coelho dressed in the typical hippie attire of the time heads to Europe in defiance of everything that his well-off parents stand for and eventually makes his way to Amsterdam where his strange adventure begins. Coelho describes the era as a time of rebellion when trailblazing, young adventurers decided to disregard the unwritten rules of society at the time.

Upon arriving in Amsterdam Coelho, who writes in third person during this novel, meets a girl in her 20’s named Karla who asks him to come on a mysterious journey across Europe to Kathmandu on the ‘magic bus’. Coelho decides to accompany her on the expedition.

Alongside the company of the bus, a number of characters Coelho slowly introduces throughout his journey, Coelho and Karla explore the meaning of life together – spirituality, sex, freedom and drugs are all themes that Coelho dives into while reciting his time with the friends he makes on the bus.

As the group go against societal norms in an act of defiance Coelho and Karla explore their love for one another – an atypical love story unfolds as the pair travel through Europe.

This novel, while thought-provoking and nostalgic, reads more like a messy recital of past memories from the back of Coelho’s head. The Brazilian’s most popular books, for example The Alchemist & The Pilgrimage, are often written with a clear moral to learn at the end of the story – and this is what his readers often buy his books for, a fable-like novel. However, ‘Hippie’ is written and told in a very different style to this – instead it has no lesson to learn and is more of a muddled display of Coelho’s past, it almost feels as if he is just trying to show off. ‘Hippie’ may not appeal to Coelho’s usual readers but may open his work up to a new audience interested in a novel that is flooded with nostalgia and unusual, almost unreal stories.

The ending of the book is anti-climatic and is best described as odd – it feels entirely random and misplaced in the storyline of the novel. Maybe Coelho is leaving some room for a sequel – a second endeavour into his backlog of hazy memories.

‘Hippie’ goes against Coelho’s typical style of writing – it is not a fable but instead a splurge of memories of his younger self. Albeit a beautifully described set of memories that recall an exciting era of disobedience, drugs and independence from the perspective of someone right at the beating heart of the hippie movement.

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