Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This book surprised me. Partly because I didn’t know much about it prior to reading, and partly because for some reason I thought it was going to be an action adventurer book that had later been made into a rather dreary movie. Go figure.
However, if I had bothered to read the back or the dust jacket prior to reading it, chances are I still would have been a bit surprised. (In other words, the description is so vague and standard that it really didn’t really prepare me for the tone or the story.)
Basically, The Alchemist is a fairy tale, albeit a rather long one. There is a quest, there are forces of good and forces of evil, there are morality lessons, the reading of omens, and the predictable happy ending. All of that, I enjoyed. In fact, though it isn’t my normal sort of reading, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Unfortunately, as is the case in many fairy tales, the magic sometimes seemed more like plot spackle than plot development. There are also subtle things that I think are lost in translation. I can almost feel how beautiful the passages would have been, how poetic, but in English, the flow is a bit lost and there are times when the phrasing seemed clunky.
Despite that, I found it a very, very quick and easy read. Though the story is simple, it is still engaging, and even if I have nothing in common with the main character (a shepherd boy who decides to sell his flock and embark on an adventure for a treasure he has dreamt about in a far off land), I still found meaning and hope in his quest.
Like any morality tale the teaching moments are sometimes overly redundant and the personification of one’s heart, the wind, the sun, etc can get a bit awkward and tiresome. Ultimately though, it is a fable that I will remember and pass on to others.
It was, indeed, worth reading.