Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Basic plot

In his quest to fulfill his Personal Legend, young Santiago left the seminary to become a shepherd who would subsequently leave his flock in search of treasure at the Pyramids. His journey takes him from Spain’s scenic rural countryside to the harsh deserts of Egypt. Along the way he meets a gypsy, a king, a crystal merchant, an Englishman and finally the Alchemist himself. A great man who possesses The Philosopher’s Stone and The Elixir of Life. At the end of his journey to fulfill his Personal Legend is a rare insight into the Soul of the World.

What I liked about this book

The plot at its most basic is a very simple tale of a young boy and his journey to fulfill his destiny. The story regales how each event that occurs is in fact merely the next crossroads in his life. Every obstacle is a choice that he has to make whether to give up or move on. The reader is subtly made aware that hardship is not the only deterrent to success, but also self-doubt, complacency and fear of the unknown. We are enlightened to the fact that in order to fulfill our own destinies our strongest artillery is faith and our mightiest weapon is a pure heart. To read this story as a simple narration is a great folly, as there are so many references to Islam, Judaism and Christianity in the text. The story has more clarity if the reader is familiar with the historical background of these major religions (e.g. the reference to why a king would talk to a shepherd, because it was shepherds who first recognized the boy who would be King).

What I disliked about this book

I have always made it a point to point out that I am not a fan of self- help, motivational or inspirational books as a genre. I usually find the solutions offered too simplistic and the revelations, although astonishing, somewhat irrelevant when mirrored back to my own life. Although this book was more subtle by weaving in these pearls of wisdom beautifully into the fabric of the story, I was still very much aware of its intentions to dispel my cynicism resulting only in flaming them. Therefore instead of being able to enjoy the story of Santiago the shepherd and his incredible journey, I read the book more as a fragmented collection of beautiful quotes and sage advice. This in actuality is not really a bad thing.

A quote I liked from this book (one of many)

You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.

Rating: 3.5

This book actually belongs to Siti who has been kind enough to lend me this book as part of her book swap project. Lydia has also posted a book swap list on her blog. I am delighted that there are book lovers out there who, like me, want to share our passion for reading with others. (My book list is at the Book Club).



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