Review: The Alchemist


The Alchemist
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was in the mood for another meaning-of-life book, so did some searching and The Alchemist came up on several lists. I saw reviews on Goodreads from people who found it life-changing and from people who hated it. I guess I’m in the middle. It wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t really learn anything, either.

The constant references to “personal legend” and “treasure” came to seem like prayer beads Coelho was clicking off in my mind, as if saying those New Age-y buzzwords enough might be the key to making me love the book. Didn’t work. It became annoying.

The story is simple. Sometimes too simple. I also disagree with some of the major tenets, such as the idea that when you really want something with all your heart the whole universe will conspire to make it happen. I also had a hard time suspending my disbelief very near the end when Santiago (who is only called by name maybe once, then only referred to as “the boy”) has a conversation with … well, I’ll just say “some elementals” to avoid major spoilers. There were some fantastical plot devices before that, but that conversation just went too far.

It isn’t a bad book, really, and someone who has not already read much of this style of literature is likely to find it much more valuable than I did. It’s also pretty short, so you’re not committing a huge amount of time.

I listened to this on audio, and I have to say that Jeremy Irons’ narration was a major plus to the experience.

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