Book Review

Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

the alchemist

Number of pages: 208

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: paperback

Rating: ages 18 and up

Genre: moral, philosophy      


A shepherd boy named Santiago travels from his homeland Spain to the pyramids of Egypt in search of treasure. During his journey he meets a Gypsy woman, an old king, an Englishman, and an Alchemist. Along the way, Santiago faces new obstacles that challenge his journey as he searches for promising riches, but in the end, he finds that the treasure is within. A humble tale full of wisdom, philosophy, and morality, intertwined in a fable about a shepherd following his heart in search for the greatest treasure of all.

My thoughts:

My sister recommended I read The Alchemist, as her friend loved it. But before reading bestsellers I like to read the reviews first, and after reading the praises I still found the novel satisfactory. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the novel, I just had a few problems with the story. And this isn’t the first time I’ve read philosophical and moral fiction. Before I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni, so I’m familiar with stories that beneath their surface, there are points about human nature, morals, and facts about life with references to religion and beliefs. But when reading books of this kind, I’m not interested in what the moral of the story is, but how that message is conveyed in the story.

Although the story was easy to follow (originally it was written in Portuguese and translated into 73 languages), there were a few points in the plot that are questionable, like how the boy recognized the Alchemist, his epiphanies, and his test with nature. It’s difficult to explain further without revealing any spoilers, but I really felt like there were small holes in the plot. And the ending I thought was inadequately written as if the author changed his mind or couldn’t decide how to conclude the story. Again, I can’t reveal anything more than that without spoiling the story for anyone who’s interested and hasn’t read the book yet.

Regardless of the plot, I found the characters interesting, particularly the Alchemist who sounds more of a wizard than a man of science. But the character that stands out most is Santiago, the shepherd boy who like us, is on journey of discovering his Personal Legend. But life has a way of convincing us that it’s impossible to accomplish our dream, and the boy realizes this during his journey through the desert. As strangers and forces of nature challenge him with obstacles and paths that steer him away from succeeding his Personal Legend, Santiago continues to listen with his heart as his mentor, the Alchemist taught him. In the end, he finally discovers his real treasure.

Despite the small plot holes, the story was compelling and meaningful with references to religion and God, as the author is Catholic. I recommend this book as its still a good read in the moral and philosophical category. A good story told to teach readers how we can reach our Personal Legend by following our hearts and discovering our treasure within.

I give this book 3 hoots out of 5.


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