Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

March 20, 2015 · 6:00 pm

 The Alchemist

Readability:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Content:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Overall:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist was a light and refreshing read.  It follows “the boy” Santiago, a shepherd from Andalusia, on his quest to follow his personal legend—specifically, a buried treasure near the pyramids of Egypt.  He’s waylaid in Tangier, and then at an oasis in the Sahara, and through his travels, he learns to follow omens and to understand the language of the world.

This was the first book I finished after reading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and while both books follow the introspective journeys of young men, the similarities end there.  I’ll readily admit that I prefer Santiago’s  trusting optimism over Holden Caulfield’s endless angst.  While I think that Holden’s adolescent exegesis of Ecclesiastes certainly has it’s place in literature, I personally can’t resist a beautiful story. Salinger might paint a more realistic picture, but Coelho paints a more beautiful one.

Likes:

  • After fighting my way through some heavier books, reading The Alchemist was like a breath of fresh air.
  • I was not expecting it to be so saturated with philosophy and religion, but that was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed Coelho’s commentary about the universality of the human experience and I especially liked the idea of a universal language.  To me, it was reminiscent to me of Martin Buber’s I and Thou, which explores those rare, but powerful moments when we really connect to each other.
  • The story shows again and again how our fear of failure is often the biggest obstacle that keeps us from doing what we feel called to do.  I think this is a truth worth spreading.

Dislikes:

  • I did actually enjoy the philosophical asides, but from time to time they verged on being “preachy.”
  • While the idea that we hold ourselves back from pursuing our passion resonates with me, a fairy tale is still a fairy tale. There are people who persevere relentlessly, and continue to be beaten down by life just as relentlessly.  This is a lovely story, and I think it has a lot to teach about how we approach life, but less to say about what to expect from life.

Favorite Quotes:

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I couldn’t have found God in the seminary, he thought, as he looked at the sunrise.” ― “The Boy” Santiago in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

“At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.” ― Melchizedek, King of Salem in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” ― Fatima in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

Back to A Book A Week

All Reviews

Leave a comment!

Post Navigation