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 treasure 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.
One of my good friends gave me The Alchemist for my birthday last year. It’s her favorite book and I told her I’d read it by the end of the year. Alas, I began it on New Year’s Eve and finished it in the new year, 2016, just a few days past my deadline. But a few days is nothing compared to George R.R. Martin missing The Winds of Winter deadline, so I can’t complain.
The Alchemist is, first and foremost, a beautiful tale of destiny. It’s an allegorical novel, so it contains lots of symbolism and many religious allusions. The main character, Santiago, is simply called “the boy” throughout the novel, and he encounters a variety of interesting characters and cultures while on his journey to achieve his Personal Legend. The Alchemist is not quite a coming-of-age novel; it’s not about discovering one’s destiny or finding oneself. Instead, it’s about a person knowing what he or she wants and going out into the world to find or do it.
I think The Alchemist’s underlying message is very important and applicable to many people. I think that many people grow up with grand dreams and then, when they’re a bit older and on the verge of deciding their future, face what they believe to be reality. They settle for less than what they wanted, thinking it is more, thinking that a cookie-cutter degree, a stable job, a nice home will satisfy them. They convince themselves that later, when they’ve done all they need to do, they can do what they’ve always wanted to do; for Santiago, it’s to travel and see the world. But, “the trouble is, you think you have time,” to quote the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama. Most people never end up achieving their Personal Legend, and all they’re left with is a dream.
Going into The Alchemist, I expected sophisticated writing and character development. However, it reads more like a tale than a novel and the writing style is simple and easy to follow. Like all tales, the story’s main purpose is its message, not its plot or characters. The Alchemist’s message about following your dream is beautiful and powerful, and I think that’s why it is so hyped. I found some parts to be a little bit too pretentious and deep for my taste, but overall, I enjoyed reading The Alchemist and I recommend it to all.
Thanks for reading.