Summary (from Goodreads):
The beloved, bestselling international author of The Alchemist returns with another haunting novel—a thrilling journey into our constant fascination with the worlds of fame, fortune, and celebrity.
A profound meditation on personal power and innocent dreams that are manipulated or undone by success, The Winner Stands Alone is set in the exciting worlds of fashion and cinema.
Taking place over the course of twenty-four hours during the Cannes Film Festival, it is the story of Igor, a successful, driven Russian entrepreneur who will go to the darkest lengths to reclaim a lost love—his ex-wife, Ewa. Believing that his life with Ewa was divinely ordained, Igor once told her that he would destroy whole worlds to get her back. The conflict between an individual evil force and society emerges, and as the novel unfolds, morality is derailed.
Meet the players and poseurs behind the scenes at Cannes—the “Superclass” of producers, actors, designers, and supermodels, as well as the aspiring starlets, has-been stars, and jaded hangers-on. Adroitly interweaving the characters’ stories, Paulo Coelho uses his twelfth novel to paint an engrossing picture of a world overrun by glamour and excess, and shows us the possibly dire consequences of our obsession with fame.
This is not what I expected from Paulo Coelho, at all – actually, I wasn’t sure what to expect since I hadn’t read anything by the author since Veronica Decides to Die, which was okay.
But, I have to say that I was taken by surprise … As always, Coelho comments on some aspect of human nature or society, and this time it’s about celebrity, celebrities, and the public’s obsession with them. The ‘Super Class’ are attending the Cannes film festival, and one in particular, Igor, is not there for the films – he’s at the event to win back his ex-wife, Ewa, at any cost. Thus begins a Hercule Poirot/Sherlock Holmes-type novel where people are killed, suspects are questioned, and truths are revealed.
Coelho opens the curtains to the backstage world of celebrity, and what we see is not pretty, to say the least. It is a dark, dangerous, degrading, greedy, needy, desperate, volatile, and heartbreaking place – a place I am quite happy not to be a part of, especially the way Coleho describes it.
This is darker than his previous works (at least of the ones I have read), and quite entertaining. It’s nice to read something that does not feed into the celebrity machine, and questions the extent some will go to be a ‘star’, and how the ‘Super Class’ sets the tone for everything – fashion, food, morals, values, and beliefs.
If you like mysteries, and don’t mind a little (or a lot of) social commentary, then this is for you.