The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is a highly proclaimed book with a wealth of philosophical and spiritual knowledge, laced with fantasy. Having sold more than 65 million copies worldwide, in 67 languages, the book is considered a modern classic. I've been planning to read it for more than 7 years, and finally I did, thanks to Shilpa, who gave me this book in exchange for The Harlot. Incidentally, this was my first Coelho read.
Blurb from The Alchemist:
This story is about an Andalusian shepherd boy, named Santiago, who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert, in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way, he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transformation power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.
In this book, Paulo Coelho narrates a magical fable about Santiago, a young shepherd boy from Spain, in search of his destiny. Unlike most of us, Santiago dares to stand out from the rest of his "tribe". He dares to dream and attempts to realize his destiny. His parents want him to become a priest, but his heart tells him to become a traveler. And that's what he does. In his quest, he risks all he's got, and loses it too, but still doesn't give up, and eventually finds all that he ever dreamt of, and more. Isn't that exactly how it happens in real life too if we choose to follow our dreams honestly and passionately?
As The Alchemist is written as a fable, the writing style is childishly simplistic, but with some priceless nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout the book. It's more of a self-help book, and should not be mistaken for a great literary work. The message of the story, while nothing new, does leave an impact on the readers. It leaves you pondering about life, its purpose, your destiny, and your fears. It teaches you about being true to your destiny and dreams, and about recognizing the "signs" the Universe gives you to guide you along your journey.
There are no complex twists and turns in the plot. The characters are also flat and uncomplicated. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading The Alchemist, at least till the actual "alchemist" showed up! From that point on, the book just lost me! I couldn't relate to the unexpected 180 degree change in Santiago's character. Up until that point, he came across as a strong, self-sufficient person, who believed in himself and made his own choices in life. Suddenly, we find him being "spoon-fed" by the alchemist and more-or-less coerced into making decisions that didn't seem convincing enough for his heart. I also couldn't digest the part where he tries to turn himself into wind! Still, the wisdom of the book is not entirely lost.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is a simple, motivational, feel-good, folk tale, best suited for children. (Although I sure can think of some adults too, who'd do good to read it!) Overall, it makes for a quick read, and will probably make you reflect on your own life and dreams, depending upon what state of mind you read it in.
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