Paul's Reviews > The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
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it was ok
bookshelves: modern-classics

I've been meaning to read this for years; I probably should have left it a mystery because it irritated me no end. At one level it is a pleasant enough little tale of a spanish shepherd who seeks to fulfil his destiny/follow his dreams/seek his fortune. He meets a bloke from the Old Testament (Genesis to be precise) called Melchizedek (lots of symbolism surrounds this guy) who says he needs to go to the pyramids to find his dream/fortune. He sets off, spends some time in Tangier and then sets off with a desert caravan. He arrives at an oasis, falls in love and meets an alchemist who teaches him about the soul of the world and how to listen to his heart. He finds his treasure after some ups and downs.
On one level a simple heart-warming story of how to get your hearts desire by listening to your own inner voice and the world around you; it's that simple! So why did it wind me up so much?
A brief aside; the best review I have read of this book is a one liner;

"Jonathon Livingston Seagull meets Lawrence of Arabia"

Actually I thought the philosophy was more akin to Ayn Rand, it is very individualistic and you are the master of your own destiny. Of course, that only applies if you are a bloke; the women in the novel (very few), didn't do a lot. Fatima the love interest lived in an oasis and was content to stay there whilst her love was off having adventures and finding destinies. It was enough for her to wait for her man, knowing that he would return for her one day (if he wasn't daft enough to get himself killed, die of thirst in the desert, forget her or just get bored of her). An excellent role model for all modern women?
What really irritated me was the implication if you didn't manage to fulfil your destiny, it was your fault. Obviously those in grinding poverty or dying young of cancer really need to get a grip of themselves.
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Reading Progress

December 10, 2010 – Shelved
April 14, 2012 – Started Reading
April 21, 2012 – Shelved as: modern-classics
April 21, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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message 1: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie My daughter had to read this for school - she was actually enraged by it. He treats you like an idiot was her main complaint.


Paul I can understand why she disliked it!


Cecily That eloquently sums up my memories - with the addition of an important final paragraph.


message 4: by Hayes (new)

Hayes "Jonathon Livingston Seagull meets Lawrence of Arabia"

I laughed for 5 minutes. Thanks for cheering up my day!


Samadrita Haha I love to hate this book as well. I came across another great review of this by a person who wrote 'This book is about as deep as the pond in my backyard and mind you Mr Coelho, the pond dried years ago.'


Dolors The question is, is there anyone who really like this novel?


Samadrita Dolors wrote: "The question is, is there anyone who really like this novel?"

There are at least 10 people in my "friend's list" who have rated this book 5 stars, my friend. I am not even counting the 4 star ratings.
But well I suppose opinions will always differ, as will perspectives.


Rowena I loved it as a 19 year old and I read it at a very pivotal point in my life (I had just moved to Canada, had my whole life ahead of me, blah blah) so I really liked its hopeful message about destiny. I also loved the settings. However, subsequent Coelho books have been terrible and cliched in my opinion. I also get the feeling that if I re-read this book with my less naive eyes, I would find it very trite and cliched.


message 9: by Dolors (last edited Aug 11, 2013 10:31AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Dolors Samadrita wrote: "Dolors wrote: "The question is, is there anyone who really like this novel?"

There are at least 10 people in my "friend's list" who have rated this book 5 stars, my friend. I am not even counting ..."


Ha, Samadrita! I admit I am prejudiced against Mr. Coelho so I guess my perspective is not a very objective one. But there it is.


message 10: by Aubrey (last edited Aug 11, 2013 10:50AM) (new)

Aubrey Oh dear just no. Ayn Rand in short parable form? Crime against humanity, that. Unfortunately, it does explain the unhealthy level of public interest and widely disparaging opinions, though...


message 11: by Caroline (new)

Caroline I suspect my response would have been exactly the same as yours. Grrrrr!


message 12: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul This book does provoke strong reactions in both directions as the reviews indicate and I do suspect that opinions about it do change over time.


Adrienne oh i read this and loved it......it really does depend on one's spirituality/view on life. it's not my job to explain the story b/c each of us reads this and takes with them what they will. the problem with religion/philosophy is that most people only want to believe their view to be the right one....the alchmist puts forward a whole ream of different ideas interwoven to,hopefully, make the reader think outside the box..


Aditi People are biased on this one, I think just because Coelho writes deep psychological stories that does not make his stories boring or bad or useless or meaningless, always there is a message at the end of his books, Guess what! Alchemist is the most translated book by a living author, wonder why people around the world love it so badly! May be they are mad and crazy like Coelho to understand his books and FYI, I read this book while I was in Class8 and I didn't understand a single meaning, but when I grew older, I almost read it over 10times to understand it. and unfortunately, somewhere in between Coelho's words, I fell in love with the book! At least people should try to judge from Mr. Coelho's perspective!


message 15: by Ted (new)

Ted Time to remove this book from the 'Maybe' shelf and feel relieved that I never bought it. Thanks for the review Paul.


message 16: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul That's ok Ted, glad to be of service


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