Review of The Winner Stands Alone – Paulo Coelho

Set in the Cannes Film Festival, 'The Winner Stands Alone' explores the high-society life of the celebrities for its vanity. Is all that we think of it true? Is that really the life that we should aim for? These are the things that are explored in this book in a crime thriller approach. Paulo Coelho has written a catchy novel in The Winner Stands Alone.

I picked this book up because I had read a lot about Paulo Coelho and his writing (though it was almost always about The Alchemist). Needless to say, I started this book expecting a complex writing with unbeatable narration etc. The book stood up to the latter part of the expectation and quite pleasantly avoided the former.

Writing Style

Paulo Coelho, true to his reputation, has written an exceedingly good novel. What is good about the book is the fact that while you read through it, you can't let it slip. The suspense builds on. You want to find out what happens to Igor after all the murders he has committed. You are curious to find out whether Ewa, his wife, tells her then companion, the Arab designer about what is bothering her. The suspense is not about who the killer is or why he is killing; but rather, the suspense is about what happens next. The writing is quite simple in terms that you do not need to sit with a dictionary. It is easy to read through. But, about the ideology, be your own judge.

What I did not like:

What I did not like about Winner Stands Alone is that it seemed heavily like those conspiracy theories. It painted a rather bleak picture of both the glamor industry and the elite business community. As per the book, there is a super-class who controls everything that happens in the world, a super-class which is powerful and craves more power. Many of them are not identified by everyone unlike the celebrities and socialites who are more visible but lack much power. The book might make some people feel good in knowing that they are not the only ones living in misery, and probably even elated thinking that all the glitz that they thought was a big deal was just a show.


The protagonist (can we really call him that?) is the multimillionaire, founder of a Russian telecom giant who is in Cannes with the aim to get his estranged wife back. His wife is presently with a famous designer from the Arab world, who is the latest trend-setter and one of the biggest names in the industry. The book is about how the intertwined lives of many are affected by Igor's completely irrational actions. "I will destroy worlds to get you back." that is what he had promised his wife, and that is what he is set out to do. How defines worlds and how he destroys them is the crux of this book. There are many sub-stories, of all the people whose worlds he is set to destroy.

According to Igor, with death of every individual, it also destroys several words associated with the person. In his distorted mind, this somehow will get him back his wife. Also, he feels justified and on the true path because he is never caught or suspected. He feels it is destiny that is making him do this. There are instances which indicate to his psychiatric state here and there.

This book is trying to find an answer to "What should be the measurement of success?". Should appearing on tabloids, making a certain amount of money, having certain toys (cars, gadgets, etc.) be a measure of success? Do people at parties such as the ones around the Oscars or around the Cannes just go there to be visible? Are the people, who are mostly said to be the successful people and who form the role models to so many young and old really that vain? These are questions that need to be pondered upon.

One of the main themes that the book revolves around is the philosophy dealing with happiness in human beings. What makes a person happy? Is it the universally accepted parameters of success? Is it unlimited power? In this book, there is only one person who has been shown to be genuinely happy, Jasmine, the model and her Designer. They are in love with each other, they get through the rough and realize what it is that they need and do just that. Is Coelho trying to tell what many other preachers have already said?

Considering that Paulo Coelho is supposed to be a writer of philosophical books (or at least that is what I had read/heard). I do not see any clear position that he has taken in this book. He mentions a lot of people who appear happy, and has mentioned that all that is faked. He has talked about this guy (Igor), who seems to see them for what they are, knows the truth of it all. Someone who knows what real power is and how all those who need to appear powerful are not powerful at all. He is rich, he has power, he is well trained and he is also an excellent killer.

I really recommend that you read the book if you enjoy crime-thrillers. This is really good in that. I did not find the philosophy very intriguing, probably because I found only little bit of merit in it. I agree to the point that success should be measured in terms of your own goals, as in what you want to do. Your goals should not depend on what the world deems as success.

Article by Jash Jacob
Jash Jacob is a Business Intelligence developer who has been contributing to ISC since a few months. His interests include Business Intelligence, Business Analytics, Movies, Novels, Reading scientific news and debates and listening to music. He also comments on random things in life in his personal blog. If you so wish, you may contact him through his profile or through forum response.

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Author: Harsh Vyas05 Apr 2014 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2

Hello Jash Jacob,

This is very nice Review of the Book "Winner stands alone". Your review inspired me again to read this novel. One of my friend sent me this book and I had left it in between. The character IGOR is very mysterious and interesting. Keep it up.

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