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Follow This? Really?
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
Member Name: bilbobaginz
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
Date: 22/08/12, updated on 27/08/12 (81 review reads)
Advantages: OK narrative.
Disadvantages: Unrealistic ideas and simple story with minimal character development.
Whilst travelling Europe this summer I often found myself browsing the shelves of local book stores in the different cities I visited. I was reading a lot on the train journeys and seemed in constant need of new material. It was in a second hand store in Brussels that I discovered an English copy of what was described to me as 'a life changer' (not just by the blurb), so after a quick read of the beginning I conceded to give the little book a go. I noted too its 'international best seller' sticker, and recalled hearing the authors name, Paulo Coelho somewhere or other.
In essence, The Alchemist is about a young Shepherd boy who roams the hilly landscapes of Andalusia concerned only with the well-being of his sheep - there simple needs of water and fresh food pointing him in his next direction. Santiago is that boy, and besides an obsession with a market owner's daughter in a village he is on route to make trade, he has no real place to go. It's when he meets a man (a king no doubt) in the village who talks to him of 'destinies' and the following of 'omens' that lead to life's true goal that Santiago's story makes an abrupt change. In no time he's off (having sold his flock) across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier. The man had told him about Egypt's pyramids and that 'there he would find his treasure, his destiny' - so of course, that was all it took, he was off. Arriving, he worked in a shop selling crystal glass and quickly changed the fortune of the business, bringing in new customers via new innovative ways of selling the glass (making tea in them). Apparently, if you really want something 'all the universe will conspire to help you achieve that thing' - amazing! Santiago really, really wanted to help the man, earn his money and go on to the pyramids, so the crystal shop flourished! After leaving the shop he embarks on the long journey across the desert and meets an English man in search of 'the alchemist' - a man capable of making gold from lead, a holder of the Philosophers Stone. He gets to an Oasis and instantly finds his 'true love' Fatima - brief like the book. He also finds this alchemist fellow and the alchemist says something along the lines of, 'Your seeking your destiny aren't you? You should carry on to the Pyramids'. So he does, then there's a silly twist at the end. The end.
The story is, in my opinion, very generic, very predictable, very short - and in short, nothing special. When I first started reading, Coelho suckered me in well (I must admit) with light terminology - destiny, omens - and progressively moved on to deeper (less believable) lines, throwing in 'the soul of the world' and other phrases, attempting to suggest that everything is connected like the story of the novel (even though neither are well connected in my opinion). At the time I could deal with this heavy hitting spiritual lingo because I saw it as 100% fiction, but when Coelho started 'linking' in religion and religious texts I gave in to logic and began despising what the author was trying to suggest. Life is a scientific existence in my opinion, it can't be explained by texts written by other humans several thousand years a go - it can be better explained by technology and the advances made since then. And although I can accept to an extent that there may well be more to life than we know, I don't think Paulo Coelho has the answer, somehow.
The writing style I didn't mind - it was simple but effective. There is no depth to the characters however, because there aren't enough words between the pages to fully develop them. You get a picture of Santiago and perhaps the English man to a degree, but no one else - and that's just lazy. In conclusion to the entirety, I don't think this is a 'life changer' of any sort. Even to religious people, I don't think the assumptions would make much sense - to Atheists it is inconceivable, as anything illogical usually is.
AUTHOR: Paulo Coelho
AVAILABLE: Amazon.co.uk (£5.29)
Summary: Verging on an insult to your intelligence!