Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Classics
Release Date: May 1, 1993
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Paperback
Pages: 167
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository

Read from September 30 to October 2, 2011

My rating: 1 star: I don't like it


Summary: Paulo 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 treasures 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.


The moment I finished this book I almost cried of frustration. I was so seriously disappointed by how awful the book is that I had to sit down and shut my eyes and control my in- and exhalation. My rage was only burning hotter; the book was my fuel. I know, the summary sounds interesting, and I'd been told a lot of times that The Alchemist is excellent this, amazing that. But now that I read it, I wish I hadn't.


The story is simple enough. A boy becomes a shepherd for the sake of wandering. Then he meets a man who believes himself to be a king, is told that he will find his great treasure near the Pyramids in Egypt, and off he goes. I have to point out that it is not really a tale of following your dreams, because dreams don't really play any part in this novel. What plays a great role, in fact, are omens. Omens here, there, omens everywhere! (How do you know that something is an omen anyway? It could be coincidences? I don't know..) Everyone he meets on the road seems to know what the boy is up to. They all know about his dreams (again-- not really. More like his "goals" or "aspirations") and where he's going. (What the? It doesn't even make sense!) Then he travels to the Oasis and his eyes fall upon a girl and WHAM! TRUE LOVE! (SERIOUSLY???) He meets an alchemist and they both hit the road to search for his treasure. Along the way they get caught and Santiago is to "turn himself into the wind". Days drag on and on, and he still hasn't figured out how. (I knew it!) And then the day comes where he has to prove himself, and he talks to the wind", making a miracle happen. What's more, he even talks to the sun! In the Language of The World! (WHAT????) He understands the Soul of The World too! Isn't that very touching? Then he go off to the Pyramids only to find out by "dreaming" that his treasure is somewhere else! Cool! *sighs*

I'm going to try and be reasonable and tell you why this book failed me.
1) The writing style is not good. The story is told in simple sentences. I personally have nothing against that, but the way it's written just doesn't get to me. It looks as if it's meant to resemble the style of fables, but it is nothing compared to that. However, this could be something that gets lost in translation. Maybe the writing style--word and sentence structure and whatnot--is beautiful when it's Portuguese. Although that may be true, it just doesn't work when it's English, that's for sure.

2) Coelho kept calling Santiago "the boy". The boy............... The boy...................... The boy....................... The boy............................ All. The. Time. I mean, he has a name, okay? There were times when I'd only read "the boy" that I almost forgot what his name actually is!

3) The messages and story aren't deep and philosophical as portrayed. Sure, A Fable About Following Your Dream sounds cool. But no, this story isn't really about following dreams. It isn't about a certain idea of philosophy, either. It's more about reading omens, and pursuing Personal Legends, and talking in the Language of The World, or reaching through to The Soul of The World. All of which are as deep as..... Gah! I don't know. "...when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it" would have been an inspiring quote, had it any supporting facts or evidences (not the omens, please), otherwise it would just be a cheesy line attempting to be deep but failing, and yes, that's precisely what I think it is. When something touches your inmost heart and makes you feel something special, that is deep, that is profound. When something makes you irritable and your brows furrow in extreme annoyance, that is definitely not deep. Are we clear here, Coelho? 

Extremely annoyed, yes, that's what this book did to me. Everything about it bothered me so much that I had a hard time trying to finish it. Good thing it was thin. I can't believe the hype, really. My friends told me it's so great, but I find it totally awful. It's the first book I've ever rated 1 star. It's just awful.

By the way, I have been told by a friend who loves this book that the reason I dislike it is because I am not a Christian believer. Maybe that's partly why.. However, there are other problems with this book that still would make it displeasing for me, weren't I an atheist.

I hereby insist: this book is awful. It wasn't for me. I'm sorry I'm so harsh on it. I just hated it so much.


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

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