Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelo (3/5 stars)

I have heard of this book numerous times before. So when I saw it on the buy one get one table at Borders I decided to get it because there was another book on there that I wanted.

This is not the type of book I normally read but once in a while I like to throw in something different to give me a new perspective on things and clear out my "fantasy reading" palate.

This book describes the journey of a boy, Santiago, from his life as a shepherd to the realization of his "Personal Legend". That's basically what the book goes through, that's it.

This book reminded me a lot of a parable or fable. It was written in a very simplistic, straight forward style. I think a relatively young child could read and, to some depth understand, the book. The moral of the book seems to be to never give up your dreams; things that come between you and your dreams are there for a reason. There are probably a number of other symbolic instances in the book but, truth be told, I didn't find it intriguing enough to spend a lot of time analyzing the book.

It is a very short book and a quick read. It felt more like reading a novella than an actual book. It reminded me of a book that probably wasn't that tough to write and makes me wonder about all the hubbaloo about it. Maybe people should spend more time reading books in general.

That being said the book does have a sense of peace about it. When you finish the book you are relatively happy and have a peaceful feeling about life in general. This book gives you a sense of "everything happens for a reason", yet empowers you to feel like you *can* make a difference in your life and those around you.

For some reason the feeling this book left me with reminded me of how I felt after reading the Kushiel's Dart trilogy. In some odd way Santiago reminded me of Phedre'. Anyone who has read both books is probably thinking I am nutsy. But think about it; both characters seem to go through life with a sort of grace, both characters take a lot of hard knocks but keep on reaching for what they see as right, and both characters seem to end up happy with their lives thus far.

One thing about this book really bothered me and that was the obsessive use of the capitalized term "Personal Legend". This phrase was used too frequently throughout the book and described often; it made me feel like Coelo was either 1) trying to dumb down the book for the readers or 2) coin his own personal self-help phrase. If it was 1) he should assume his audience is a bit brighter than he did and if it is 2) I don't appreciate reading a fiction book that is trying to sell its own self-help series.

I was very surprised that a treasure really existed. Given the tone of the book I expected the treasure to be the journey itself, or some similar high-handed drivel.

Anyway, the book was okay. It was a quick read but I have a feeling that most people out there who read a lot will wonder what the big deal is. For those who are solely "bestseller readers" this may be a more significant piece of work. If it ends up becoming a classic and being required reading in schools, I think the kids should be grateful since it is a very quick and easy read.

1 comment:

  1. I like the book myself, haven't read it though...

    "I never read a book befor reviewing it, it prejudices a man so" as someone said...