Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1.5/5)

The back says: This is the magical story of Santiago, a shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the world to seek the most wonderful treasures known to man. From his home in Spain, he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and, from there, into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him.

I say: I’m going to make this short because it feels like I’ll be repeating what I wrote about Coelho when I reviewed Veronika Decides to Die, and I honestly cannot be arsed.

Paulo Coelho is just not for me.

I had doubts when I started reading The Alchemist, but I tried to keep an open mind about it.


I didn’t think about getting annoyed with the language or the story, but just to focus on letting everything run its course in its own time.

That lasted until page eight where this was written:

“The heat lasted until nightfall, and all that time he had to carry his jacket. But when he thought to complain about the burden of its weight, he remembered that, because he had the jacket, he had withstood the cold of the dawn.

We have to prepare for change, he thought, and he was grateful for the jacket’s weight and warmth.” 

I told myself “don’t get annoyed, it’s just the one thing.” And I trudged on all the way to page thirteen and this:

“Another trick, the boy thought. But he decided to take a chance. A shepherd always takes his chances with wolves and with drought, and that’s what makes a shepherd’s life exciting.”

After that I just couldn’t read this with an open mind, and I will come right out and say that I hate this book. No, actually I don’t hate it – hate requires energy.

I nothing this book.

It’s stupid, contrived, insulting, and just plain awful. In a way it feels like Coelho was going out of his way to write a profound fable, but instead of just focusing on one main moral (or even a decent enough storyline), he just threw in everything he’d ever heard about anything.

It was a mess.

The only good thing about the story was what the boy found when he got to the pyramids. Was that a spoiler to say that he got there?


Needless to say, I will never read another Coelho book unless my life depends on it. And even then I’ll need a few hours to think about it.


  1. I can safely say I have never been enticed to read anything by Coehlo. At one point we used to shelve his books in self help. That was enough to put me off. I loved your review though. It made me laugh and confirmed that I shouldn't bother with them.

    I have a confession to make. I gave up on Call Me By Your Name. It just didn't seem to go anywhere and the first person narrative irritated me more than normal. Haven't entirely given up on it though. I might go back to it eventually. Reading Doctor Zhivago instead.

  2. Don't read Coelho. Ever. It's only a certain type of person who can enjoy this. Maybe if I hadn't been silly enough to start reading Shakespeare at 11 and moving on to Machiavelli and Sun Tzu at 14, I may have found this interesting in some way, but no. Just no. I've heard it all before and done in a much better way.

    Don't worry about CMBYN - nobody I've told to read it has loved it. Ha ha ha. If you look at the reviews on Amazon they're very varied - pretty much love or hate. Aciman loves language (and Proust, quite obviously) and goes on an on, but I love that sort of thing. Nothing much really happens, but at the same time it does. If you got as far as the whole "call me by your name" thing - you can read the last sentence, cos that is the best last sentence I know (but it might spoil everything).

    Dr Zhivago - I gave up on that earlier this year. Or not so much "gave up" and threw it to the side for something else. But I do love the Russians, so I'll be reading it soon enough.

  3. The book, makes you look at your own point at life. It gives you moments that you've experienced yourself, and questions you ponder in the most difficult of situations. A very fine read, and one that can help you as well. The pace was a bit slow, but the moments are wonderful!

  4. I appreciate your comment and opinion, but the only help I got from this book was to solidify the fact that I'll never read another Coelho book again. Everything in this book has been said before in far better ways.

    To each his own.