If you do any searching on the internet for “books that changed my life”, many people will list The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho as one that will affect your life in some way. But did it have any effect on mine?
The Alchemist is a novella that comes in under 150 pages and took me less than a day to complete the audiobook. It tells the story of a boy who goes on a journey to find a treasure and to fulfil his dream but along the way meets people who teach him more about life than he thought there was to learn.
The Alchemist plot – 4/5
The Alchemist, as I stated above, is the story of a boy (who is only ever called ‘the boy’) who has a dream about the great pyramids of Egypt and a treasure that sits among them. He’s told by a fortune teller that a great treasure resides there and it is essentially his destiny to go and find this treasure. The Boy sets out on a journey from his small town as a shepherd to explore the world and travel to the pyramids to find this treasure. Along the way, he meets many wise people who teach him about the world. He felt that being a shepherd, his sheep could teach him everything he’d need to learn but these people teach him so much more.
This is a book that is filled with lots of hidden messages. Nearly all of the lessons that The Boy learns along his journey represent some kind of lesson we can all learn in life. It’s a short but sweet tale that feels like we’re constantly learning something important about how to look at life. The plot itself is quite meh, but the lessons that a lot of the stories teach us do make up for it.
The Alchemist characters – 4.5/5
There’s only one character in The Alchemist that’s actually given a name. The others are all just referred to by their job that they hold within the story. Therefore, it makes it trickier for us to build any sort of opinion of these characters. On top of this, with it being a novella, there’s even less time for us to build any sort of feelings towards the characters. However, this doesn’t;t completely stop them from being enjoyable to read.
For example, The Boy has a wonderfully naive personality. He’s constantly learning throughout the book – he’s grown up in a sheltered environment and so when he goes out adventuring, so many things are brand new for him – the good and the bad. The Boy, as I’ve said a few times already, meets other people along his journey, including The Alchemist from the title of the book. Despite their relatively short time with the boy (from our viewpoint, not his, some of them spend a year with him) we still manage to get an understanding of their impact on The Boy’s life and whether they’re kind or not kind. Coelho doesn’t fall into the trap of making people purely nice or purely mean, he has managed to create some genuinely real characters.
The Alchemist summary – 4/5
I struggle with novellas as I’m somebody that likes to feel like I’ve been on an emotional journey with a book and often feel that the 150 pages a novella gives you can’t accomplish this. However, once in a while, a novella does come along that does really impress you and makes you see why it is so celebrated. The Alchemist almost does this for me.
Whilst reading it, I was impressed with the messages Coelho was getting across but felt that due to its short length and lack of deep plot, I couldn’t give it the five stars it deserves. In hindsight, it is a great novel and one that has left me reflecting. I reckon I’ll pick it up again in the future at some point when I’m maybe more in the mood for life-changing writing. But for now, it’s a four stars from me.