Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are two ways to look at this book: one, as a fable or; two, as a self help inspirational book. If you look at it as just a story, it isn’t bad. The writing is smooth and well-versed and the story has interesting elements of destiny, supernatural forces, love, and coming of age. If you look at as inspirational it might work for you, but for me it was muddled and overshadowed an otherwise good story.

The philosophy espoused in the book from the perspective of the MC, Santiago is one of new age spiritualism. It has themes of authority of the self, metaphysical traditions, and cosmic guidance. If that’s you’re thing then fine, but for me it’s a bunch of garbled hooey.

Contrary to some other reviews, the Alchemist does not present modern religious themes. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Sorcery, astrology, and nature worship are remnants of polytheistic and ancient beliefs. Many of these practices have been adapted in a modern sense by the new age movement, but are in conflict with modern beliefs of the major religions in the world.

Using cosmic forces to find a treasure or fulfill your own ‘personal legend,’ as Paulo Coelho calls it, is a theme right from “The Secret,” and other prosperity theology sources. It’s a theme that has gained in prominence in the years but not one in which I subscribe.

If you’re sympathetic to new age and modern day psycho-babble then you’ll like this book. If you think you can find a way to separate the message from the fable (which I really couldn’t and you’d be hard-pressed to as well) then it’s not bad. Otherwise, skip ‘The Alchemist.’

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