Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I wanted to write a review about this book while it was still fresh on my mind. It was such a rewarding read that I felt, to do a recommendation justice, it ought to be as though the pages had closed and my words had taken over to pass the journey along.

The Alchemist is an incredibly popular book but for those of you who have never heard of it, it is a small but riveting tale about a young boy in search of treasure. However, unlike many treasure-hunting stories it is the ambiguity of the treasure that makes this story so compelling.

Santiago is a young sheep herder who has a longing for adventure and new horizons. Turning away from his future in the church and his family home he buys some sheep and starts a journey. But he continues to have a recurring dream that stirs a curiosity within him. After seeking interpretation and finding more than he bargained for, he is propelled into an adventure that leads him to much more than treasure.

I particularly liked the rhythm of the story. Paulo Coelho has a gift for blending narrative with an almost poetic description of events. I think this was most evident in his ability to capture the simplicity of the plot within a thread of complex emotion. The reader is invited to learn as Santiago does, uncovering fragments of wisdom along the way. The author’s ability to convey such beautiful ideas within popular genre made it a pleasing read.

I think something that did strike me as unrealistic was the convenience of side-kicks. It seemed as though the right person came along at the right time to tell him exactly what he needed to hear. I believe that this was intentional as Paulo tried to convey the concept of ‘the universe conspiring to make our dreams happen’. But I think that making the information a little more difficult to obtain, or the message-bringers a little harder to persuade, would have made the story more complex.

In saying this, I think that The Alchemist was written with the full intention of transmitting hope to readers. The simplicity of the story, in a way, is what made it such a nice read. The idea of Santiago being an average young man in pursuit of something that could very well be obtained by anyone helped the audience to relate and to consider the underlying morals within the work.

I really loved this story and would recommend to anyone who is on a journey of fulfillment or even just looking for a quick, feel-good read.