The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Review

I decided to give this book a read after everyone and their mother suggested it. Its review was even suggested when I first started this blog, and although I admit I’m writing this with hesitancy, I am not going to give this book an objective review, hence, know that what you’re about to read is a personal opinion, I still suggest going through a couple more reviews before buying the book.

I should start by saying I’ve read other Coelho books, and was never able to understand how they could possibly remain in The Alchemist’s shadow. Not to be throwing you off, but Veronika Decides to Die is very much an underrated masterpiece. Nevertheless, The Alchemist is indeed the inspirational novel it is portrayed to be. The plot is simple in nature, a Spanish shepherd gets a recurring dream of a treasure buried under the pyramids of Giza, as he sets out on his personal quest, Santiago starts following signs that would help him reach his destination. “When you really want something, the universe always conspires in your favor”, and Santiago listened to the universe, he learned alchemy as well as the language of his heart throughout his journey.

Although Coelho does give insightful ideas about destiny and goals and the magic of the universe, I wasn’t able to connect to the book the way I would another. The writing is simplistic and quite self-affirming, for example,
“I had to test your courage, the stranger said. ‘Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World.’ The boy was surprised. The stranger was speaking of things that very few people knew about.”
I wasn’t intrigued by the concepts Coelho tried to bring forth, and although they were meant to attract and encourage readers to see themselves reflected in the vague and quasi-poetic storytelling, it simply didn’t do it for me.
Also, I need to shed some light on the sexism insinuated in the book:
“‘You’ll remember that she never asked you to stay, because a woman of the desert knows that she must await her man.’ (p. 126)”
“I also have Fatima. She is a treasure greater than anything else I have won.” (p. 121)”
The author may not have meant to imply that “the strong desert woman” can do nothing better than wait on a man, or that she is a prize to be one, but be that as it may, the book has gained worldwide fame, and it will reach the nightstands of many little girls who shouldn’t think waiting on a man and being the faithful wife at home is what “strong” women should do.

My personal opinion aside, it wouldn’t take you more than a day to finish the book and I suppose it’s worth experiencing what the hype is about yourself, let me know what you think if you do. Or you could read another book by the author, there are so many hidden gems in his collections.

Finally, I read the French translation of the book because, for some reason, I decided I would only read Coelho in French; he would be my next Victor Hugo post-graduation from my francophone school. I admit it’s been a while, writing this now feels nostalgic, I will probably pick up a new book from my Coelho collection soon. Thank you for being my motivator as I would hopefully be yours.

Enjoy and always bring a book home. x

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