Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Alchemist

Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
List: #94 on BBC Top 100
Worth reading? Yes.

The Alchemist is a novel that feels very much like a self-help book. It tells the story of a young shepherd who is trying to live out his “personal legend,” or destiny. The premise is that everyone has a destiny to fulfill, but that most people give up at some point along the way because they get distracted by material things or are held back by love. Through an old king that appears to the shepherd, the author encourages us to chase our dreams to find happiness and implies that we cannot be truly happy until we have attempted to follow our dreams and live out our destinies. The novel also implies that love is only true love if our lovers let us do whatever it takes to follow our hearts.

For the most part I am not a fan of novels masquerading as self-help books, particularly in such a spiritual way, but there is something different about The Alchemist. It is a very soothing book written in a calming prose that carries the story rapidly towards its conclusion, but in an unhurried sort of way. What I mean by that is that this novel did not put me to sleep or rush me the way a thriller would, but just gently, but firmly, urged me to reach the end. And I thought the author was quite adept at painting the scenery and transporting me to the shepherd’s world without quite making me forget my own surroundings.

I will not pretend that this novel is at the top of my must read list, nor is it close to being one of my favorites, but I really think it is worth the read. I think it would be particularly appreciated as an escape from a hectic period of life or after some more angst-driven novels.

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