I must preface this review by stating that The Alchemist came highly recommended by several acquaintances and friends. I was told that it would be an inspiring, life changing book that would offer encouragement for the pursuit of my dreams. Perhaps this may have led me to have overly high expectations of this renowned work by Paulo Coelho (or perhaps not). Nevertheless, I strive always to give fair and balanced reviews of every book that I read regardless of who the author is or how many awards a book has won. My review of The Alchemist is no exception to this rule.
The Alchemist tells the saga of a boy afflicted with wanderlust who works as a shepherd in Andalusia, in southern Spain, but decides one day to quit and boldly venture out into the world in order to pursue his dreams. In the course of this pursuit the boy experiences many misadventures which serve as valuable lessons that prepare him to achieve his dreams. Overall, I found the story very much like a fairy tale suitable for a child since the prose is simple and many of the plot twists involve mystical events that do not correspond with reality. This considerably weakened the story from my perspective and perhaps exposes the author’s creative limitations, since he meekly attempts to utilize the periodic occurrence of fantastical events to keep the reader inspired. By introducing incredulous events and characters it made the whole story fall flat as the lessons derived from it come across as far less inspirational and translatable to the real-life pursuit of one’s dreams. The spiritual aspects of the book also seem contrived and superficial, rather than integral to the storyline. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of The Alchemist was how Paulo Coelho cleverly created a multilayered, intricate story by weaving several stories into the fabric of the main storyline, creating a Russian doll-like cascade of stories. Many of these sub-stories are recounted as parables which teach supposedly wise and valuable lessons about life and the pursuit of one’s dreams. Equally intriguing is that the main character in the Alchemist, is never given a name, while all of the other characters in the novella are named or at least described by a distinguishing label. Throughout The Alchemist the protagonist is simply referred to as ‘the boy.’ In summary, The Alchemist is a book most suitable for someone looking for a light, entertaining Sunday afternoon read, requiring little deep reflection or heavy thinking. For this reason I can only give The Alchemist 3 stars.
Have you read The Alchemist or any other of Paulo Coelho’s books? What did you find most interesting and enjoyable? Please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below. Thanks for stopping by!