Book Review : THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho

I’ve read ‘The Alchemist’ three times – and will do it a few more times in the future. There are very few books that fall into this category.

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What makes a book worth re-reading?

The language. The message. The story.

Often, all three.

A allegorical parable like Paulo Coelho‘s ‘The Alchemist‘ is, on the face of it, a simple love story. A poor little boy falls in love with an unattainable maiden – and wins her love in the end.

If that’s all it were, the book wouldn’t be worth reading over and over again. But there’s more to it.

Like Shrek says about ogres in the movie, “They’re like onions. Layers. You get it? Both have layers.”

And each time I read it, I peel back a few more layers – and uncover more wisdom, more beauty, more meaning.

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Paulo Coelho is a different kind of writer. Most readers love his style. A few hate it. It does seem distinctive and maybe hard to follow along, especially if you’re reading him for the very first time.

But he quickly grows on you… and then, you’re hooked (maybe, like me, for life!)

A spiritual sensuality pervades his work, lending a certain mystique and fantasy to the most mundane scenes and situations. You can read a sentence, pause to think it over, and find numerous hidden meanings within just a few words or phrases.

The Alchemist‘ is loaded with such examples.

We begin our journey alongside an Andalusian shepherd Santiago as he joins a caravan travelling from Spain to the Sahara desert.

Where is he headed? In search of hidden treasure!

“When you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”

He runs across a gypsy lady, a self-acclaimed ‘king’, and eventually an alchemist. Each of them, in a different way, direct him towards his destination… although none have any idea about the treasure Santiago seeks!

Like another favorite travel story of mine – ‘The Icedrop‘ – this one also transcends from a quest for riches and wealth to become one in search of soul, meaning and purpose… the real gems and jewels of existence.

As you accompany the lost little boy as he meanders along the desert, finds his soulmate, and hunts for his life’s purpose, you’ll identify with different aspects of the story – even see yourself in Santiago.

“I am afraid that great disappointment awaits me, and so I prefer to dream”

In the end, this is a book about…

  • Listening to our heart.
  • Following our dreams.
  • Finding our highest purpose.

And discovering – with a pleasurable jolt of surprise – how nearby and within grasp it always was… always will be.

Here’s an interesting factoid about ‘The Alchemist‘:

Sales were initially slow. Coelho’s first publisher dropped the novel. Yet Paulo had the last laugh. ‘The Alchemist‘ went on to be one of the top selling Brazilian books… of all time!

A counterpoint to ‘The Alchemist‘ reviews like this one are the several less-than-enthusiastic rants that condemn various aspects of the novel.

One explanation is that rarely does one size fit all, that it’s a ‘horses for courses’ thing.

Another is that, when a book sells a mind-boggling 150 MILLION copies, it is bound to annoy, anger or antagonize a few hundred thousand readers.

Oh, well. This may be right up your alley. Or you may intensely dislike it. Most likely, after the first read, you’ll be somewhere in between these extremes.

After that, it’s a toss up.

Maybe you, like me, will read it a few more times – growing ever more fascinated, impressed and immersed in the multi-layered fable.

Or not.

In any case, ‘The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream‘ is worth a read.

Grab your copy here:

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