The Alchemist Book Review: An Inspiring and Quick Read

An inspiring, quick read. 

The Alchemist is a short novel written by Paulo Coelho. The word count only adds up to about 45k. I literally reread the book in a weekend to write this review. The book was first published by a Brazilian publisher and then an editor from Harper Collins picked it up. Soon after, it became an International Bestseller—paving the way for Paulo Coelho to publish a few more books that never really out did The Alchemist. Unlike other books, this one doesn’t have chapters; there are two parts and a bunch of space breaks. 

The story follows a kid named Santiago who is a Shepard in Andalusia. Every year he visits a town to sell his sheep’s wool. One day he had a dream of a young boy telling him he has treasure waiting for him in the Pyramids.

He embarks on an expedition from Spain to Morocco, across the Sahara Desert and finally to the Pyramids. His one and only goal is to find the treasure from his dream, but he learns more about life outside being a Shepard. A life-changing expedition that turns his life around completely. He gets robbed, works at a crystal shop, meets an Englishman, meets the love of his life, an alchemist, and learns many lessons. All this to pursue his Personal Legend — reach the pyramids and find the treasure that awaits him.  

My Praise and Critique. There’s a lot to love about The Alchemist. It’s filled with motivational words that push a person to find their purpose in life. How one should follow their goal at any given moment without waiting for the right time. If one wants to travel, they should do it now, rather than waiting later on in life. 

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child. that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery and put some money aside. When he’s an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable at any time of their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The characters are not three-dimensional, with Santiago being the closest to a three-dimensional character. The story is narrated in third person, and the narrator jumps in and out of Santiago’s thoughts, but none of the other characters’. I couldn’t imagine what the characters looked like, or the setting, for that matter. The only section that I could really visualize was the crystal shop at the top of the hill and the leader of the caravan, with a beard and dark eyes. As for the other characters or places, including Santiago, it was hard to imagine them.  

The Alchemist also contained some fantastical components. For example, Santiago talked to the Wind and the Desert. I was a bit confused when the boy talked to the Wind and the Desert because Paulo never explained the ability behind it. He lightly touched upon it but lacked the explanation behind the fantastical ability. The omens were another piece of the book that I did not favor. I didn’t think it was necessary. Maybe it’s just me because I don’t believe in that stuff. 

Recommendation. I would definitely recommend the Alchemist to everyone, no matter their age. It’s a novel that is worth its reading time. I summarized the review below and gave it my rating out of 10. Click here for the book. 

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