Age Group: Adult
Here is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers into the Egyptian desert where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him. This is a story that teaches us, as only few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path and, above, all follow our dreams.The Alchemist is something of a modern day classic. Its reputation, combined with its fairy tale feel, made me think that I was going to love it.
Instead, I'm just feeling kind of meh.
My main issue is that I prefer subtext. I like there to be symbolism and layers and sentences with double-meanings in the books I read so that I can then interpret them and hear others' (sometimes varying) interpretations. The Alchemist doesn't really allow the reader to do that- it's over a hundred pages of preaching, everything laid out so clearly on the surface that there's very little for the reader to figure out.
I love the lesson of following your dreams, regardless of fears and challenges. I'm not crazy about the fatalistic side of this, though the author does have one foot in and one foot out of the fate pool (as in, you have choices, but if you don't go after the one true path you have, you won't ever be truly happy).
Another aspect that bugged me was the lack of female characters. There are only two with dialogue and the love interest, Fatima, is perfectly content sitting and waiting for her man to return to her while he goes off and has adventures. This stereotypical gender role is irritating, though it would have been significantly less irritating had there been other female characters with the same complexity as the crystal merchant, the King of Salem, or the camel driver.
The Alchemist contains a lot of really interesting philosophy and it's great how the author included a bit of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The world-building is fantastic, too. The pastoral imagery of the desert and Spanish fields is so vivid and gorgeous. I just wish the story itself had more depth.
*2.9 stars*A Quote from the Book: "The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times."
Do you like books with hidden symbolism or in-your-face lessons?