“The Alchemist” – Is It Really A Secret Formula?

Book Review: The Alchemist
By Paulo Coelho

Spoiler Alert!

Screen shot 2014-05-07 at 12.29.07 PMPaulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Here are a few quotes.

Crystal Merchant:

 “I’m afraid that if my dream is realized; I’ll have no reason to go on living.” (p. 57)

 “Sometimes, there’s just no way to hold back the river.” (p. 61)

Santiago/ the boy:

 “Everyone has his or her own way of learning things.” (p. 87)

“That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” (p. 156)

Caravan Leader:

 “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man…life is the moment we’re living right now.” (p. 88)

The Alchemist:

 “Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World.” (p. 115)

“There is only one way to learn, it’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.” (p. 130)

“The wise men understood that this natural world is only an image and a copy of paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects, men could understand his spiritual teachings and the marvels of his wisdom. That’s what I mean by action.” (p. 132)

“Naturally it’s (your heart) afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won.” (p. 134)

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when is goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” (p. 135)

“When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.” (p. 139)

“Men have never understood the words of the wise. So gold, instead of being seen as a symbol of evolution, became the basis for conflict.” (p. 142)

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: fear of failure.” (p. 147)

I have given you the quotes listed to see if they might help you in determining if you would love this book. While reading the book I could see the intent of the author and it isn’t a new concept or a secret. Some call this same principle the Law of the Harvest, that you reap what you sow, others Karma, that what you put out into the universe returns. The boy sent out his desire to seek for his personal treasure and is eventually rewarded.

These are the problems I had enjoying the book. It seemed disjointed because of the two opposing forces of magic in the form of the Alchemist and the sprinkling of references to the Bible. It also is trying to teach a deep truth through a simple allegorical story which I found undeveloped. The characters aren’t fleshed out because they are secondary to the author’s point, but because of this I didn’t really connect with the people or their experiences and stories. I also find it strange that the boy, Santiago, has a personal legend or a dream to pursue, but Fatima doesn’t, and is to only wait by the side hoping the man she loves returns from the desert. Seems rather sexist. Finally, I question the entire premise that we should seek out our dreams at the expense of everyone and thing in our lives. This seems extremely selfish. What if Santiago’s sheep had been his children? Would he still have abandoned them on a fool’s errand? What of the daughter he had dreamed of meeting again, he abandoned her without a moment’s hesitation. Will he really be true to Fatima when he obviously thinks of himself more than others?

Life is a full rich experience, but sometimes it requires sacrifice, loyalty and the wisdom to know where to spend our time. Ultimately, this was not my favorite novel because it seems trite, full of self-importance and I did not enjoy the writing and character development. I might have enjoyed it more if ultimately Santiago found no treasure other than wisdom, love and service to others.

2.5 out of 5 stars

2 1:2 star

– the Mother

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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