Maria, a beautiful Brazilian girl went to Europe to work as an exotic dancer, but ended being a prostitute. An expensive one, "working" in a luxurious bar in Geneva. Maria's goal is to earn enough money to buy a farm in Brazil for her and her parents and leave Swizerland in a year. "Eleven minutes" is her story.

I got this book as a birthday present, probably because it's a bestseller. Paulo Coelho is actually quite a bestseller-producer, with 50 million books sold worldwide. His most famous work is "The Alchemist", which I've also read a couple of years ago, after a warm recommendation by Anna.

In some ways my impression from "Eleven minutes" is similar to "The Alchemist". The book is written very well, it's readable and flows quickly. It talks about certain life philosophies, with the main theme being the search of the main character for the meaning of life. Not surprising that Coelho's books are such bestsellers. They read and tie you down like a soap-opera, and leave you with a certain imprint of profoundness.

Profoundness is nice, but in most cases it's not too deep, and "Eleven minutes" is one of these cases. Almost every author has something to say about "the meaning of life", and when you read a lot, explicit mentioning of this loaded topic makes you expect certain quality and depth from the book. I have no problem with "normal" books, but books which directly state and make it clear from the beginning that their main point is "to find the meaning of life" makes me want to see something new, something that I haven't read before. After all, what good is it writing a book on the topic when all your ideas were previously expressed by other authors ?

But I don't want to judge this book too harsh. All in all, it's pretty good, and I enjoyed reading it. The best thing about it is the topics it deals with. It's probably the first book I read where the main character is a prostitute, and I also don't recall books where very intimate sexual details are stated so explicitly. (No wonder it caused a few scandals in some conservative countries...) For instance, this is definitely the first printed material in which I read about sado-masochism (I wasn't convinced, though. Book authors usually leave such matters for the porno magazines...

I really liked the main character. Maria is obviously a very intelligent human being. She always strives to learn, to understand things. She tries to make her life better through learning, and this is a trait I admire. The curiosity plus the will and discipline to fulfill it by reading, talking and acquiring knowledge is a great feature to have. I guess she could've suceeded in a more intellectual profession.

To end up with a recommendation... If you want a good entertaining read about things that are quite rare in books, read "Eleven minutes". If you were told that this books shows you the meaning of life in a meaningful manner, don't bother, because (IMHO, of course) it doesn't.