Gemma's Reviews > The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
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Jun 13, 11

Read in June, 2011

I've got issues with this book.

On one hand, the writing, while simple, was nice. I think it helped add to the sort of fable-esque feel the story was going for. It was short, which I liked, because if it had been any longer, it would be torturous. The Alchemist is to the point. Always a good thing.

But on the other hand, it was so... hippie. Like, New Age-y, 'follow-your-dreams-everyone-can-do-anything-all-you-need-is-love-hold-hands-and-sing'. That type of thing. And the story didn't feel real to me. The idea of a boy going after his 'personal legend' and just... getting it so easily. It didn't feel real.

Basically, the moral was that if you want something bad enough, you can get it. Don't let circumstances or people stand in your way. Go for it. If you think you can, you can. And on one hand, that's good, but... well, there's this element called 'life' that comes into play here.

Life is not that simple. The universe is not conspiring to make your every selfish hope and dream come true. It may not be working against you, but sometimes your dreams just don't... lead to the treasure, as they did in the protagonist's case.

People die. People get sick. Elements come into play that change things. Sometimes the dream changes. Or sometimes you get it, only to realize it's not at all what you thought it was.

There was an excellent musical called Into the Woods (yes, this is a tangent) that explored similar themes. Getting what you want. Act I showed how the princes got their princesses and Jack got his beans and whatever. 'And they lived happily ever after'. Then Act II showed the consequences of these things. Not all of those consequences were good. And, though it was sad, it was beautiful, because that's the way life works. We get what we want, but it's different from what we thought it would be. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but it works out in the end.

That's what the Alchemist was missing. It was so idealistic. None of Santiago's obstacles were that difficult to overcome. Nothing got in his way, not really. It may delay him a little, but it didn't stop him. And in the end, everyone lived happily ever after. It just... wasn't real. Maybe that's the point. Maybe I'm missing what the author was going for. But what if he goes back and finds that his beloved Fatima has been carried away by another tall, dashing newcomer? Just... stuff like that that would happen in real life. None of that happened here. At the end of the story, Santiago has learned a lot about dreams, but little about life. There was no Act II. It was too happy.

Too happy. Leave it to me to point that out. But it's true. Life on earth is as wonderful as it is terrible, but the Alchemist only saw the wonderful. I guess there's nothing wrong with that. I am, after all, a cynic. But... things don't come that easily. And sometimes what we want in our lives is not what God has planned. Sometimes the dreams change.

I don't know. A lot of people love this book. Sometimes it changes their lives or whatever. I just found too many holes to truly agree with them.
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