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Book Review: The Alchemist

This book, by Paulo Coelho, is, like all fables, written on many levels. Ostensibly the story of a shepard in Spain who, unlike so many people, follows his dreams. He does get a little help from the supernatural, but many of the stories most interesting thoughts come from his musings on nature. His travels take him across the Mediteranean into Africa, where he meets several archetypal characters (the Man Afraid of Change, the Waiting Woman, the Wise Shaman, the Warrior Chief, the Cynical Fool), learns about himself and his dreams, and finds his destiny.

An interesting way to look at this story is to ask the question: who is the title character? Alchemy is such a potent idea–the changing of one element into another has had a grasp on the human mind for as long as we have known about elements. But, of course, alchemy has secondary meanings–an alchemist transforms. Is the boy an alchemist, for transforming himself and the lives of those around him? Is God the alchemist, for transforming the destinies of humanity? Is the reader the alchemist, for taking the fable and transforming its words into something personally meaningful?

My favorite part about this book was its gritty reality. I like epics, but there were no sweeping vistas and no ubermensch heros in this book. Everything the boy does (and we never learn his name) is something you and I could do. I guess that’s the point of the book.

Update: As ihath commented you do learn the boy’s name. It’s revealed on the first page. But, as I remember, it’s not used much throughout the book, maintaining the everyman nature of the story.

“The Alchemist” at Amazon.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Alchemist

  1. Shweta says:

    hi…u r right, the name of the boy is revealed on page one itself…..and it is “Santiago”

  2. Akanksha says:

    hey….. iam the one who is not interested in readin books but once one suggested me to start reading as it is a good habit, i started with this book and now just because of it, i like reading now……. i must really appreciate Coelho’s work.

  3. Brian says:

    This book gave me the biggest headache i have ever had. He says the boy’s name once throughout the whole book. That was really helpful on my book report. NOT. I do not suggest this to anyone AT ALL.

  4. Veena K Arora says:

    It is surely a beautifully written book which inspires any ordinary man to pursue his dreams, with consistence, and look for omens from above which make decision making easier.

  5. pratush says:

    alchemist is an inspiring book.Story is centered around poor shepherd who left everything to chase his dreams.His chase is ease out by the help of supernatural power.Paulo has done wonderful job & the novel has binding power.

  6. Abhinav khare says:

    well actually you are right the boy’s name is mentioned on the very first page and the name of the boy is Santiago.It is surely the best book written in every page of the book there is a message by Paulo Coelho.It also talk about our fear and desire.It is the one of the most inspiring book ever written.

  7. Olivia says:

    The Alchemist was completely empty for me. Underneath the wordy and vague surface of “discovering your destiny” and “understanding omens” there was nothing. The whole time i was reading i found myself wanting to scream at the characters and tell them just to get their heads out of the clouds and just live their lives! so, in the most blunt/crude way of saying it….this book is a load of crap.

  8. Saad says:

    Iz an awesome interesting book
    i like it

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