Books, General

The Alchemist | Review

Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paolo Coelho

Rating: 4 Stars

Dates read: 23 Apr 18 – 13 May 18

Publication date: 01 May 1993 in English (orig. 1998)

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre(s): Classic, Philosophy

Description:

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

I bought this beautiful 25th anniversary edition for myself when I was in Columbus, Ohio. The book was one of those stories I had been told to read and heard lots about but never really sought our for myself. I joined the classics club in the hope of delving into more classic reads and decided it was time to experience one of the classics of the modern generation, and well, it was whelming.

I am not going to lie to you, I went into it expecting a lot. It didn’t disappoint exactly, but it also didn’t impress, which is a real shame. I love a story about adventure, and it is unquestionable that Santiago goes on a journey of discovery in a philosophical, physical, and actual sense. I mean, straight away the story starts and finished in Southern Spain, and takes in the majority of Northern Africa in between.

No, the story didn’t disappoint. I did feel the message and the morals behind the prophetical narrative. I understood what the “King” was saying and explaining, and I understood that Santiago lived this message through his travels. I think understanding what you want from life, what makes you happy, whether wealth is the be all and end all, whether you would do anything to get you hands on riches beyond measure, is a powerful thing to understand about yourself and to walk that journey with Santiago was certainly not boring, but, well, I wasn’t that engaged with it.

I know, I know, that probably sounds harsh, but I didn’t love it. I really liked his interactions with local gypsies and fortune tellers while her was a farmer in Spain. I absolutely loved the section set in Morocco with the street vendors and the relationship with the shop owner, but there were small sections of a much wider story that I didn’t fall in love with.

I must confess that I actually listened to this as an audiobook, a book which Jeremy Irons delivers with such a wise tone that I definitely did finish the book feeling wiser than I started it. Was this the point, or would I have understood the point of the story more closely if I had actually read the words on the page rather than heard them spoken? I just can’t decide! I think the fact I can’t read it in it’s original language and had to experience a translated version may have played a part in it, but overall, I have to say it was whelming. 

I can see how people love this, how they really connect with it and I can see how people really don’t and can really dislike it. I’m neither, I thought it was woven expertly and delivered what it set out to do, it just wasn’t what I wanted to feel at the end!

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