The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

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Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Publisher: HarperOne

Publication Date: 1993 (English Version)

ISBN: 978-0-06-250217-9

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a story of self-discovery and personal destiny. An Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago embarks on a journey of living out his dreams of finding treasure in Egypt instead of settling for the simple, easy, and tolerable life of a shepherd. He leaves behind this dependable and steady lifestyle to fulfill his personal destiny through hard work and dedication. From the wisdom of the fortune teller, the king, the Englishman, and the alchemist, the boy learns to listen to and understand his heart. He persists through failure and struggle and discovers his inner strength and wisdom. 

This is a story of the universal human condition. Like the boy, people struggle to know and pursue their hopes and dreams. The boy finds the ultimate balance in his life, becoming in tune with himself, nature, and dreams. His struggle and failures are similar to the struggles that most people face in their lives in order to reach their goals. Coelho’s story reads like a timeless fable: informative, inspiring, yet simple and beautiful. As a fable, it is a story that instills morals of hard work and perseverance. The message is clearly stated and is widely applicable for readers. 

This ubiquitousness is furthered in the naming conventions throughout the story. Names are not used consistently. Santiago is generally referred to as “the boy.” I had to go back afterwards and look up his name as I was so used to identifying him as “the boy.” Likewise, the king, the alchemist, and the Englishman are names as such, without any proper names. This universality makes the tale relatable for readers of all kinds. The boy and the secondary characters could be anyone. It is a didactic tale, meant to teach and inform and the lack of names aids in this mission. 

I could definitely tell this book is a translations. Little idiosyncrasies are apparent as you make your way through the text, but I found this added to the books overall charm. It added an aural quality to it. I felt as though I were sitting around the fire listening to an ancient storyteller pass on tales of wisdom and mystery. The narrator fills this role of talented and captivating storyteller and wont let you go until the very last lines of the story.  

My criticism for Coelho’s novel is although the story is beautiful and captivating (and already quite short), I found it to be a little too long. I tired with the boy’s constant distractions. I hoped he would come to be more focused on his mission, but he’d end on in one place or another for extended amounts of time. His short attention span for his personal destiny was frustrating for me. As I read his tale, I found myself wishing that it soon be finished. This book seems to be loved by everyone who reads it, but I wouldn’t say it quite lives up to the hype that surrounds it. It was a good read, but it wasn’t the amazing story that I was expecting. I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more if The Alchemist if it had been a short story. 

I would definitely recommend checking this book out. It is widely well-received and is a pretty good read, but don’t expect a life-changer

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