Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (4/5)

19 Jan

I was trying to finish my reading challenge and thought to myself, “Maybe pick a book published in the time period rather than set in it.” I’ve let myself use this interpretation before and this seemed like a fun time to try it out again. I never read The Alchemist in school like I know some have. So this seemed like a good opportunity to pick it up.


Cover image via Amazon

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Summary from Amazon:

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.

This was a lovely little book. I really didn’t know what to expect and I enjoyed this story much more than I thought I would. I’m iffy on anything that calls itself a fable so I had a lot of skepticism going into it. The young shepherd was a great character and I loved how often he had to steel his resolve to keep going in the direction he needed and the amazing riches that finally came from it, monetary and otherwise. The people he met along the way were memorable and I appreciated how much each was able to direct him.

I never expect fable characters to be realistic but these were more realistic than I expected. The Englishman stands out to me as one who was so self absorbed and determined to cheat his way to wealth that he doesn’t see the good things right in his path. The crystal merchant was great and I loved seeing someone so stuck in his ways that he was more comfortable with failure than change. These qualities were very real and we see them in those around us daily.

The shepherd was my favorite character. He was brought low so many times and always found a way to believe and could think that things were going to get better and he wasn’t going to meet failure when it all seemed impossible. He was a good ‘every man’ for this journey.

It can often feel like we’re not heading in the right direction or that we’ve taking a detour. The shepherd had this many times and almost abandoned his mission more often than he wanted to admit. But he was able to keep pushing forward. No matter how much he thought he strayed, it always landed him exactly where he needed to be. When I sometimes feel stuck, it can be hard to remember that the moments of turmoil make us ready to excel when we need to.


Paulo Coelho Image via Wikipedia

When the shepherd finally reached the pyramids, his encounter with the thieves was my favorite. Skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want the ending spoiled! It was the final irony, that the riches he was seeking were back in the land he came from and that he’d traveled all that way just to learn that he needed to go back. I thought it was a beautiful ending to the story and played into it so well. A very fitting end.

I zoned out a bit when the shepherd and the alchemist were talking to the wind and the moon and whatever other elements of nature they communed with in the desert. I know the book is magical and there’s a major suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy this story, but that bit seemed to go too far for me and I found myself waiting for it to be over.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Jeremy Irons. He did a fantastic job. I loved the different voices he was able to use for the characters and the light, innocent tone he struck for the shepherd. There weren’t too many women in this story for me to have an opinion on how he did feminine voices so that’s the one area where I can’t comment.

The book focuses so much on chasing your dreams, something I think very few people really do. I was struck by this while I was on vacation recently. My partner and I made friends with a couple from Italy who shared with us that they’d lived abroad together and were working jobs they really liked and loved to travel to explore history. I thought to myself, “How many other people have those same passions but don’t pursue them?” Living abroad can be challenging. Searching for a job that you enjoy can take time. Traveling to excite a passion takes a lot of planning. Sometimes it’s easier to keep your head down and push forward on the same path you’ve been on. But when you don’t, that’s when life really happens.

Writer’s Takeaway: Coelho’s biggest lesson for me is brevity. He was able to tell an amazingly complex and deep story in a very limited number of words. There was nothing extraneous in these pages- everything kept pushing the shepherd toward his treasure. This is something I know I’ve struggled with and many writers do. Longer books are not always better books- they’re often worse.

This was a great little book and I could see myself rereading it years from now. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1980-1999 time period of the 2022 When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
The Alchemist | The Misanthropologist
THE ALCHEMIST – A Review | House of Living Stone
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Spoilers!) | Pages Unbound Reviews


7 Responses to “Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (4/5)”

  1. ReadRenard January 19, 2023 at 10:04 AM #

    I wish I liked The Alchemist, but I struggle to read it without feeling like the lesson (following your dreams) is aimed specifically to young men. Women don’t have personal legends in this book (we don’t see a single example), instead it’s explicitly stated that Fatima is seen as being part of Santiago’s personal legend… as a teen, it taught me the wrong lesson: that women exist to help men fulfill their dreams, or that they are lesser somehow.


    • Sam January 19, 2023 at 4:41 PM #

      That’s a solid point that didn’t occur to me! Thanks for pointing it out so I could consider it!


  2. margaret21 January 19, 2023 at 11:10 AM #

    Somehow, I’ve never read any Coelho. This sounds an excellent place to start. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Janette January 19, 2023 at 11:14 AM #

    I’ve never heard of this book before but you’ve certainly made me interested in reading it.


    • Sam January 19, 2023 at 5:34 PM #

      I remember someone reading it in college for a class, but I never did. Hope you enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lola January 19, 2023 at 12:06 PM #

    So glad you enjoyed The Alchemist.
    When I read it a few years back I expected to love it, but I just sort of didn’t. It left me cold for some reason. I was very sad about it too, as I had heard such good things! It certainly isn’t a bad book by any standards, but I wanted it to speak to me more than it did.


    • Sam January 19, 2023 at 5:35 PM #

      I’m not sure it moved me or spoke to me the way some describe. It was more fun than moving.

      Liked by 1 person

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