The Alchemist Book Review

Every child knows what it means to have a dream. Every adult knows what it means to lose sight of that dream. The Alchemist, the charming little novel by Paulo Coelho, captures both the rapture of the former and the desolation of the latter. At fewer than two hundred pages, this captivating story can easily be devoured in an afternoon on a sun-drenched porch.

The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, a young shepherd living in Andalusia who looks forward to a simple life. Inspired by a dream and encouraged by a chance meeting with a mysterious king, Santiago begins a quest for a hidden treasure which he believes will be found at the Egyptian pyramids. The king presents him with two stones-one black, one white-with which Santiago can divine the answers to questions. Santiago journeys to Morocco, where he is robbed, leaving him penniless and far from home. Though discouraged, he gathers his resolve and finds work with a merchant. After saving money for a year, Santiago books passage to Egypt with a caravan. Along the way, the caravan is delayed at an oasis, the only point of neutrality between local tribes on the brink of war. Here, Santiago meets Fatima, who he vows to marry. While at the oasis, Santiago has a prophetic vision and risks his life to warn the tribal leaders of an impending attack. He also finally meets the alchemist, with whom he will journey on to the pyramids, where his life will be changed once again by a dream. The story of Santiago's quest for treasure is an allegory for the human search for success and meaningful existence.

The book is simply and beautifully written, even in translation. Originally written in Portuguese, the book has been translated into nearly seventy languages. According to Sant Jordi Asociados, it is now or has been a #1 bestseller in 74 countries. The prose is straightforward and reminiscent of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince. Something about the way Coelho packs expression into every word he writes makes The Alchemist feels simultaneously like a children's story, a philosophical treatise, and poetry. It is so saturated with imagery and ideas that the reader can enjoy the story over and over again, taking something new from the book with every time.

Sharing its themes with folk tales from all over the world, the novel reads like a fable, which not only makes the story accessible, but also drives home one of the central concepts of the novel, that of the Personal Legend. In a tale about dreams and destiny, it turns out that each of us is fated to be the hero of our own story.

Sant Jordi Asociados, "The Book That Makes The World Dream." Sant Jordi Asociados

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