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Book Review: The Alchemist

Arts & Entertainment

By Tiffiny Allen

Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist was first published in 1988; it follows the story of a boy named Santiago, who goes out on a journey to find treasure amongst the Egyptian pyramids. The Alchemist was not an immediate bestseller. The book was first released in Coelho’s home country Brazil and did not begin to reach its full success until French readers picked up the book in the early 1990’s. Some notable and quite remarkable aspects of this story is the great writing and storyline that Coelho put together, the simple yet profound symbolism, and the ease of it being a quick read.

The flow of The Alchemist is fast paced without feeling rushed. It is a fluid read and the writing style and storyline are reminiscent of folktale themes. It is an adventure story, about locating one’s destiny and purpose in life. Here is an example of Coelho’s superb writing: “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” The reason why Coelho’s writing is superb is because he is able to take common words and phrase them into philosophical themes. It took Coelho two weeks to write this novel, if it took him any longer than that perhaps the story would not be as great as it is.

The author symbolically references a sense of yearning towards a greater future throughout the book. Destiny and purpose are referred to as ‘Personal Legends’ and the importance of them is persistently spoken of throughout the story. Paulo Coelho makes a fine point of realizing one’s fate, how we only get one chance at life and to comprehend that before it is too late, is the most important thing one can do. Some other symbolic themes include the treasure that Santiago is in search of and his love interest that gets introduced mid-story, Fatima. Coelho’s symbolism is portrayed quite accurately and purposefully. None of the metaphors are hard to interpret and they are all of equal relevance.

   The Alchemist is a 163-page novel; one could read it in an afternoon if he/she so desired. Its simple yet intriguing storyline will most definitely pull the reader in to where they cannot put it down again. That has been the case for some readers of The Alchemist, with over 65 million copies sold worldwide perhaps that is why this novel has garnered a large fan base following. Its philosophical themes are guaranteed to make you think about the smaller things in life and wonder if you have accomplished your own ‘Personal Legend.’ Coelho most definitely deserves all of the praise he can get for this story; it was well written and grounded and a perfect yet humble life lesson.

If one is ever in a bookstore, or looking for something different and simple then they should definitely look into Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Some controversies surrounding it have called it a work of plagiarism, supposedly being too similar to works by Rumi and a story from a thousand and one nights. That is believed to be a false accusation, of course, no story is going to be wholly original, but it is not thought that this one is a work of plagiarism. Sure, some themes are familiar, but it is its own tale. The Alchemist is a great story that is appreciated by multitudes and should be read by most everyone.


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