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Tuesday 4 February 2014

Book Review: The Alchemist ★★


From what I can find, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a book with a cult following. A lot of people have read it, a good chunk love it and a few hate it, and some even call it a modern classic. I am afraid that though I wouldn't like to use the H word regarding a book, I didn't love this book, and I really wanted to.

The Alchemist tell the tale of a young shepherd who decides there is more to life than remaining in his humble home. He sells his flock of sheep and embarks on an adventure to make more of himself. He travels far and meets a wide variety of different people, each with a life message to impart.

It is relatively short at just over 200 pages so in theory shouldn't take long to read but it took me eight days to plough through this. I don't think that I have ever felt so inclined to put a book down and leave it unfinished as I did half way through this, possibly only by Death Comes to Pemberley. I just did not feel inclined to keep reading the story, it is full of spiritual preaching and I loathe preaching that is trying to pass as fiction. I absolutely had to sit and force myself to finish it (which took an hour and a half, not bad) but even by the end I couldn't find much that I enjoyed to redeem it.

The story is in essence a nice tale of accomplishing your dreams and following them despite hardship. This is a great fable, and one which is lovely to conclude a story with, but the message runs throughout the whole book very strongly. The secondary characters are always teaching the Boy a lesson, and there are omens which he must take heed of or suffer the consequences. Don't get me wrong I am an eternal optimist and you will never find me giving up my ambitions no matter what life throws at me, and I believe if you keep trying you will always get there in the end, but I don't think that the reader needed to have this told to them in such an obvious way. I can understand why so many people may enjoy it, as it may provide them with the boost they need to see the better side of life, but for me this felt very forced.

I enjoyed the character of The Boy, though again, due to Coelho's method of telling the reader his message we lack insight into the main character, he was ultimately a vessel for the message and I wish he had been fleshed out so that we could enjoy him as a character as well.

Ultimately I feel like The Alchemist is a moral story, and if you are in the mood for being reminded of your life's potential you may enjoy it, but if like me you already believe in your own ability to succeed I would give this a miss.


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