Friday, November 6, 2009

The Alchemist By Paulo Coelho

I will admit it, I'm not ashamed, I'm a slow reader. Unlike most people I've never read a book in a day that was meant for someone older than 10 years old. I could whip through a book but then I wouldn't comprehend anything. But every once in awhile a book will come along that I can finish in a few days. Typically their titles start with Harry Potter and are found in the YA fiction section. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho however fell into that category. I was recommend this book over a year ago but I never took the advice. Then on a recent trip to the book store (which is a common occurrence in my life) I noticed it in the Buy One Get One Half Off section. So picked it up and read in just a day and a half.

Perhaps I finished it so quickly because it's only 163 pages. But that isn't really the case with me. Because despite the fact I read any chance I can get, on an average day I only read about thirty pages (remember I read slow). I think that the reason I finished this book so quickly falls entirely on it's content.

The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, a relatively poor Spanish shepard living off the land and his meager wages in rural Andulusia. He has decided to become a shepard because what he wants to do most of all in his life is travel. One day he goes to a Gypsy woman to interpret a strange dream he has had. The woman tells him that he must go to the pyramids in Egypt where he will find a great treasure. He brushes her off disappointed in her and his dreams. But he soon after meets a man claiming to be a king. The men knows personal information about Santiago and then tells him about achieving your own "personal legend." Santiago's personal legend is to travel to Egypt and find his treasure. He then gives Santiago a gift to help him on his way. And while Santiago still doubts he decides to give in and sells his sheep, taking a boat to Africa. His first experience in Africa is a bad one, where a young man who claims to want to help him steals all his money. But Santiago rebounds getting a job at a crystal shop earning back all his money and then some. After over a year he continues his journey to Egypt by joining a caravan to an oasis in Egypt. On the trip he meets an Englishman who is in search of his own Personal Legend of becoming an alchemist and finding the Philosophers Stone with the Elixir of Life (but he'll never find it because Dumbledore hid it somewhere very secure after Voldemort tried to find it aka Harry Potter reference no. 2). When he reaches the oasis he finds something he didn't expect. Love. A young woman of the desert named Fatima. He then meets the Alchemist who his English friend was searching for and he teaches Santiago about alchemy as well as becoming one spiritually with the world around him.

I won't give away the ending. You'll have to read for yourself to find out if Santiago achieves his Personal Legend and finds his treasure. But I will say that I definitely recommend the book. It has something for everyone. I like the message that everyone has their own personal legend, something they are set on earth to achieve. The king Santiago meets tells him that many people don't achieve their personal legends. He tells Santiago a person's personal legend is "It's what you always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal legend is... They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it is impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend," (Coehlo, 21). I have, even just recently, been told what I wanted to do with my life was impossible and even worthless. It's nice to read something where achieving your dreams is encouraged. I also really dig the message of spirituality in being one with the world around you. It's not to preachy, but the religious elements in the story are there and for me they add to it's allure.

The Alchemist combines spiritual elements with fantasy effortlessly. Its message of chasing your dreams is something we can all appreciate. A quick read that will stick with you. On a scale of 1 to 10 I give The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho a 9. A definite read.

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