February 12, 2013

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

So the whole time I'm reading this book I felt that it read like a fable.  And it wasn't until I came online that I saw that it technically is a fable judging from the title posted here on the internet.  My book didn't have the subtitle of "A Fable About Following Your Dream" on the cover.  So that explains a lot.  And like most fables, there is a lesson to be learned in this book.

Santiago is a shepherd who has always had a want for traveling the world.  After some strange dreams, he consults a gypsy to help him interpret them and she sets him off on an adventure to find treasure near the great pyramids.  Along his journey though, he'll meet several interesting people and have several mishaps.  But he'll learn the true meaning of finding himself and what his dreams in life are.

Santiago is an ok character.  He's a pretty smart guy even if he does spend most his time running after sheep.  But I do think that the lessons this fable imparts come a little too easy for him.  He doesn't seem to struggle much in the mental sense, just the physical when he's robbed or beaten or the other things that befall him.  And the people he meets always impart lessons to him or teach him new things in life.   And to an extent I think that's true when you compare it to real life, but the lessons aren't usually as obvious as they are presented in this book.

The journey itself was interesting.  I found it well paced although not exciting.  But I thought the lessons and symbolism to be a little heavy handed.  If you don't understand anything philosophical don't worry about reading this book, it will be handed to you.  And I think that ruins the message a little bit because there's nothing for the reader to figure out themselves.  I'm not saying the tone needs to be mysterious, but it doesn't need to be dumbed down to quite the level that it is.  There are also a lot of different terms that the author uses to present his beliefs in this book and those seemed a little cheesy as well.  I think it would have been more professional to not title ever thought or symbol in the book.

I would call this good light reading when you need something positive.  Since this book is about pursuing your dreams it can be inspiring.  It just it spelled out so easily for the reader that it loses some of its charm and interest in the telling.

The Alchemist
Copyright 1993
167 pages + reader's guide, etc.

Review by M. Reynard 2013

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