Review: The Alchemist

The Alchemist
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A New Thought book cleverly thought out and narrated in a story format. The story follows and unnamed Spanish boy, in what seems like the late 1800s, or early 1900s, on his journey from Spain to Eygpt.

The journey and the destination are really an allegory for one’s journey in life. It’s a smart idea, although I do think the characters and obstacles met along the way are a little too cryptic to find a real-life equivalent.

I like the telling of the story. It’s simple and it fits all the lessons it wants to impart to the reader. It’s short and doesn’t drone on longer than it is. Though I’m not sure if the focus of the book was the lessons in it or the story.

I think most people will either love it or hate it because the lessons supposedly in the book are of the school of New Though. I.e. “don’t give up”, “the universe conspires to help you”, “follow your passion”. People who believe in those will rate the book highly and those that don’t will rate it low. (Just read the other reviews, you will notice this trend.)

I am not here to debate New Thought, I want to rate the book on its merits. I don’t fully believe in New Thought, though I read a lot of New Though material when I was young, so I’m used to it. I also I have been an advocate for using stories to explain ideas and concepts to people. I like how the Alchemist has used a narrative to explain the concepts of New Thought. But ultimately I don’t think it actually did a particularly good job of it. The concepts might be misinterpreted or are too vague. The plot isn’t stellar either because I think the narrative was used more as a teaching tool than in a normal novel. As such, this book should be treated as a self-help book rather than a novel.

The book is short, so you won’t be wasting your life reading it. If you are an aspiring non-fiction or self-help author, give it a read and learn how what in the book does well (or not well).

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