“One of those books that you could return to many times over.”
What Is ‘The Alchemist’ About?
Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.
Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognising opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
Why Did I Read ‘The Alchemist’?
This is a story that has been known to carry a large number of life lessons. It’s very quotable, considered a masterpiece, but is also a quick read. So it served a few purposes to read it.
I also recall Will Smith mentioning it in a motivational video, which subliminally logged it somewhere on my ‘to do’ list.
What I Liked About ‘The Alchemist’
The Alchemist begins in Spain and follows Santiago’s journey as a shepherd. He’s endearing from the start, Santiago carries a torch for a girl in a nearby town and is using a book for a pillow. Humble beginnings always strike a chord.
His dreams are interpreted by a gypsy and he’s given the first omen that a great treasure awaits him near the Pyramids of Egypt.
Santiago then has a disorientating conversation with a man who turns out to be the king of Salem. He knows more about Santiago than can explained and the story gives you it’s first reference to the ‘Personal Legend’ – the desire that you craved as a child but was forgotten and weighed down as you got older by the pressures of adulthood.
The book has barely got started and is already heavy on the metaphors and the use of story telling to deliver its messages. But from early on there is something unmistakably interesting and engaging about this story.
Quotes from ‘The Alchemist’:
- “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
- “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
- “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
- “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
- “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
- “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
- “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”
- “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
- “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
- “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
- “Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”
- “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”
- “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”
Early into the boys journey he is robbed and loses all his money, challenging his commitment to his ‘Personal Legend’. I assumed this would be an adventure story that moves at pace from location to location, but things take a different turn when the boy is employed at a jewellers for a year, whilst he rebuilds his fortune to fund his travels. Again, there are more tales and metaphors along the way.
As I read it, I started to think of ‘The Alchemist’ as one of those books that I could return to many times over. It has so many metaphorical tales, powerful quotes and words of encouragement. I can see how so many have taken this story to their hearts.
The book ends with a touching twist, a feel good factor which allows the story to come full circle and conclude his journey. Lovely ending.
What I Didn’t Like About ‘The Alchemist’
There is a somewhat dream like sequence where Santiago, having learnt to listen to his heart, begins talking with the desert, the wind, the sun and ‘the hand’ – referring to the six days creation.
The message seems to be that he has learnt the language of the world by living in the present, but for me it was an odd period of the story that went a bridge too far.
This is an old school story, set amongst sand and camels, flocks of sheep and Egyptian pyramids. It’s not for everyone, and certainly requires the right mindset going in.
Good Or Bad
Was this book any good? Of course, I read this story sort of knowing it was going to be, but that created an expectation that I was happy the book lived up to.
Would I recommend it? Yes, it’s a quick read but more than worth the amount of time it takes to digest.
Would I read it again? Yes.
Here are some other reviews:
Looking For Alaska by John Green
The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Paper Towns by John Green
Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
What’s on the list?
Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
Lie in Wait by GJ Minett
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David P. Philip