The Alchemist Review

the alchemist

Hey guys, good to be back. It has been a crazy week and Monday was this perfect storm of ridiculous stuff. The Hitchhiker’s Guide Review series will begin next week.

“Now for something completely different”, is exactly how I felt transitioning from reading the Hitchhiker’s series to this little book. These books are literally as different in content as they are in physical printed design choices. The dark humour and lengthy discourses Adams uses to populate entire galaxies are in contrast to the near reverent tone graceful minimalism that Coelho implores in his travel adventure story about a boy, a Shepard, from Spain who dreams of travel and one day decides to have a gypsy interpret a reoccurring dream he has been having. She interprets his dream as a calling for him to find treasure and thus begins his quest to find his “Personal Legend.”

This book is a strange read because it utilizies heavily with abstract-to-the-point-of-cliche concepts (the heart, love, happiness, personal purpose, over coming adversity in the face of something great, learning to reach our potential, talking animals/spirits/forces) and yet does it beautifully. I might have rolled my eyes once during the entire book and that was about this bit with the main love interest uttering something like

Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed that the desert would bring me a wonderful present. Now, my present has arrived, and it’s you.”

Fatima to Shepard (100)

However regardless of that, Coelho builds this surprisingly gripping story that feels like an travel adventure of epic proportions regardless of how pedestrian the vast majority of the events are(1) and how relatively small the scope is(2). The story being told feels less like one of relatively modern realization(3), but one more closely in line with that of the mysticism of mythology or fantasy of fairy tales giving it an intensely evergreen-timelessness.

These praises are not given lightly nor are they given for free. As beautiful is Coelho’s poetic prose and intensely empowering the language is, this is a prime example of an author who’s work I can only read in small chunks and may never finish a collection of his stories. These type books work great as pallet cleansers between the dense, emotionally challenging, and sometimes labourious stuff I generally enjoy reading.

Everything being taken into account, I can confidently offer this book a solid recommendation.

3.9/5

Rating System:

5/5 – reserved for my top favourite books. There’s only five right now.

4/5 – I really liked this book, I will likely re-read it at least once, and will be actively recommending it for a while.

3/5 – I liked the book. If I bought/traded for it, no regrets. I may recommend if it comes up in conversation or is particularly suited for a friend.

2/5 – I did not care for this book. I will likely complain about this book while reading it. I will not recommend this to anyone, I will not re-read this book for non-reference purposes, and I will sell/donate/trade it away when it is next convenient.

1/5 – I have a special place in my heart for books this abysmally bad. See these are the kind of books that inspire me. They remind me “if this piece of crap can get published, so can anything I write”, which is one of the motivating factors in working on my novel(4).

Thanks for reading, if you read this book (given it’s popularity, seems probable) and want to share your thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment below. Most comments are appreciated.

Footnotes

  1. sheep herding, selling sheep wool at market, working at a crystal shop for a year, traveling the desert, reading books, getting water, asking for directions
  2. southern Spain to Egypt, it’s only “the other shore of the strait” (28)
  3. 1988
  4. and will become one of my mantras while seeking my first publishing house and fighting off the waves of insecurity the rejection letters bring.
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5 thoughts on “The Alchemist Review

    • Thank you Bronte! It is indeed quite a strange book. While I was reading it the first time (I read it so fast the first go, 2 days, that I had to skim it a second time) I thought to myself “this is so simple, pure, and almost pedestrian. Like water. Then you try to recreate it all that you get is piss and spit (pardon the vulgarities): similar but gross and not desirable”. This story is one that has secrets, though I’m not entirely sure if I will search for them with passion. It’s one of the very few written works of beauty that I am content to let be beautiful without dissection.

      Liked by 1 person

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