Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Review of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I started reading this over a month ago and shortly afterwards recommended it to the Seoul Reading Group for their first book to review, and they accepted. I agreed to lead the discussion. The meeting at which we’ll discuss it is this afternoon, and I haven’t really thought about it too much. I suppose I should start.

The Alchemist is a very good book, there’s not much doubt about that. It concerns a young Spanish shepherd and his pursuit of his ‘Personal Legend’ – the dream that define a person’s life. The book is short, only 160 pages or so, but still manages to encompass quite a substantial tale (or maybe I just didn’t read it very quickly). It’s written in a straightforward, almost naive (ie, little ornamentation and a fiar amount of telling instead of showing), style that underscores the magical realism of the story – it comes across almost like a fable or fairy tale.

Very noticeable, for me, was the religious/spiritual dimension to the plot. As an atheist, such things usually turn me off, but here I was able to accept the book more or less on its own terms. The fact that it’s a fantasy helps, of course. There is no force guiding or looking after real people other than themselves or other people; in a book, the guiding force is, in fact, the author. The message I take from this tale is the importance of being the author of one’s own destiny.

The story concludes with a twist that gives it a pleasant circularity and which underlines the level of craft that has gone into it. The novel is so short largely because the narrative is stripped of superfluities. Coelho is clearly a talented craftsman whose aims beyond simplywriting a story seem very thoughtful and sincere. So I enjoyed reading The Alchemist, but there wasn’t enough meat to it, particularly in the form of intra- and inter-character dynamics, to be really satisfying for me. It was more of a very tasty salad.

Categories: Literature, Reviews
  1. 7 January 2007 at 3:43 am

    i agree. i’ve heard wonderful reviews about the alchemist, and i was expecting something really good. it wasn’t not good, but it wasn’t as good as people said. it’s a book all levels of readers can appreciate, though.


  2. 22 January 2007 at 2:43 am

    I also love the work of Paulo Coelho!!!! Do you know that he has a newsletter?
    You can also go to his blog and comment with other readers your
    impressions… http://www.paulocoelhoblog.com
    it’s simply wonderful!
    Best wishes!

  3. fatima
    11 August 2007 at 10:55 am

    Paulo Coelho’s alchemist is really a very nice piece of work . I love it and recommend every on to follow it because its a fable of following your dreams.

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