Book Review: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

Grade: A

I have always loved a good journey story.

The pattern is quite simple: a hero discovers some motive to leave the comforts of his home, embarks on a journey to satisfy the motive, and then returns home, possibly finding whatever it is he is looking for, though not necessarily. The real reason for the journey is, of course, not the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow, but instead the journey itself. These stories are all about what the hero learns along the way.

Paulo Coelho’s short novel, The Alchemist, is a fine example of the journey pattern. Santiago, a young shepherd boy in Andalusia, has a dream one night about a treasure located somewhere near the Pyramids. He consults a gypsy to explain the dream, and is told to follow his dream and go to Egypt. So, he sells his flock and heads south across the Mediterranean to northern Africa. When he arrives, however, a thief steals all his money, and he is forced to work at a crystal shop for about a year, during which time he learns some vital lessons about life from the shopkeeper and the locals. Finally he is able to continue on his journey across the Sahara, where he encounters a series of fantastic adventures and eventually meets the love of his life, Fatima. He finally arrives at the Pyramids, but by the time he gets there, we realize that’s not really the point and ultimately, so does Santiago.

The Alchemist is simple, straightforward, and heartwarming. It does not sink to the level of melodrama, nor does it get lost in the marvelous realm of the fantastic. Instead, Coelho keeps his short little fable right on track, offering endearing insights about life and love along the way.


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