Book review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist was published years ago (1988, according to GoodReads), so … I’m a bit late getting to it. I picked it up because a friend said if I enjoyed Silk then I might enjoy this. He was right; I did, though I don’t think it was the story as much as the simple, poetic writing and the insights into the human condition it presented.

The story is about a shepherd boy who embarks on an adventure to find a treasure buried near the pyramids. Along the way he meets a king, a merchant of fine crystal, bandits, men of learning and of course … an alchemist. But this wasn’t really about finding the treasure, it was about the journey the shepherd undertook to reach it, and how the people he met along the way changed him and his perspective on life and his future.

The book was originally written in Spanish and translated into English by Alan R. Clark. I imagine the difficulty in translating something like this is to capture the feeling and flow of the original work. I don’t speak Spanish, so I don’t know for sure, but it certainly feels right. The reader is immediately swept away in what should really be a fairly run-of-the-mill hero’s journey. The shepherd’s hopes and fears for his future are laid out across two hundred or so pages, and it’s odd how they quickly align with your own. At some points, I wasn’t sure if I was reading a novel, or being given life advice. If it was the latter then it was very much appreciated. (I’ll spend less time on Twitter for a start).

I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as Silk, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a brilliant book. I’m sure everyone who reads it will take away something different by the time the reach the end.

What did I discover?

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