Friday, November 12, 2010

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

The AlchemistTitle: The Alchemist
Author: Paul Coelho
Pages: 167
Published: 2006 HarperOne (orig. 1988)
My Rating: 2 stars

Oh blah.  I didn't know what I was getting myself into with this book.  Here I was, accepting a book on loan from an esteemed book club member, expecting an amazing bit of literary happiness.  Open the covers and what do I find?  Something that I can only describe as a cross between Life of Pi and The Five People You Meet in Heaven with a dash of The Little Prince.  (Life of Pi and The Little Prince have a few more redeeming qualities than these other 2, however.)

What do The Alchemist and The Five People You Meet in Heaven have in common that make me want to Listerine My Brain?

  • One Size Fits All.  AKA a mish-mash of styles and genres.  Is it self-help?  Fable?  Romance?
  • Lacking in Dimension.  In order to make sure the main character can identify with everyone on earth, they end up being flat and uninteresting: paper dolls.  Except I like paper dolls.  Usually.
  • Let Go of My Heartstrings.  There is a reason I don't read Nicholas Sparks etc.  I don't like books that set out to manipulate emotions or teach some amazing life lesson.  Let me figure it out for myself.
  • Is This Thing On?  Ever hear of subtlety?  Stop bashing me over the head with the point you want to make.  ...I can't think with all that noise...and I enjoy thinking. Really.
Did I miss anything?  Ah, well, if nothing else, at least now you know me a little better.  Rant over.  Let the next book begin.


  1. :O)

    I'm happy to read this. The degree of resistance to Paolo Coelho's bullshit often dictate my degree of liking of someone. Glad to see you're a fellow hater.

    What ticks me off the most about his is the condescening "teacher" attitude. The "let-me-tell-you-how-life-is-really-lived" sort of narrative, juxtaposed with value judgement makes me sick. Everybody that wants me to take their word as dogma make me sick. That's why I like David Foster Wallace so much. He understand the value of doubt and questioning.

    Great short, punchy review.

  2. I, too, saw straight through the crap. I felt like Coelho made so many statements that he tried to pass off as wise truths, but when I examined each one I found it false--or at best only partly true.

  3. The Alchemist is one of those books that everyone has read (except me!). Your review just confirms what I always suspected... popular doesn't equal good.

  4. I was very underwhelmed by this book also. It almost makes you feel cheated doesn't it? The hype I mean. Hope you are enjoying your current read :)

  5. I have never felt the urge to read this book, and reading your review I'm glad that I haven't!


  6. Oh thank heavens--finally someone else who did not like this book! In fact, I think my Goodreads rating for this one is one star. It's only saving grace for me was that it was short!

  7. Ben--I agree, those who act as if they have all the answers are not the people I spend much time listening to. I had no idea that this was one of those books. Blech.

    Kathy--tons of "wise truth" statements! To the point where it was hard to even pay attention to the story, such as it was.

    Teacher/Learner--hear! hear! If it had been much longer I wouldn't have finished reading it, and I really hate to discontinue reading a book once I've made a good dent in it.

  8. cdmaczane--I was expecting something so much better, mostly based on the person who lent it to me. Maybe that'll teach me to do a bit of research before diving into a book? I doubt it, but we'll see.

    Mel--cheated of my time and insulting to my intelligence. :) Current reads are much better: finishing Dubliners and starting Tinkers.

    Sam--now you know that there is no need to try to develop the urge. I've read it for you so you don't have to. :)

    Lisa--I have such a hard time handing out the 1 star rating! I should just practice, maybe it'll get easier as time goes on. Maybe I'll start with a 1.5 to ease me into it.

  9. I read this one, and I really enjoyed it. However, comparing it to Life of Pi, Five People You Meet in Heaven and The Little Prince is interesting. I loath the Life of Pi and The Little Prince. It's very true popular doesn't mean great. An honest review!

  10. Mrs. Q: Book Addict--Thanks for piping in even though we disagreed on the book! I thought it was like Life of Pi (which I didn't really like) in the fable/quest/outlandish adventure sense. Five People You Meet in Heaven I liked even less, but I found it similar to The Alchemist in the simplified-answers-for-everyone sense. The Little Prince I didn't love, but didn't dislike either. The similarities there were more in the fable arena.

    Are there any books The Alchemist reminded you of? What made it enjoyable for you?

  11. A very sweet young friend of mine loaned me this book and said she was sure I would love it just as she did. I hated it. It was full of trite platitudes about life without an ounce of reality to them. Laughable really. Not liking it isn't popular though; it's one of those books that the cool and enlightened are supposed to love. So much for being cool and enlightened. Great review.

  12. Ordinary Reader--It isn't often that I read a book that I don't like and don't mind saying so. Typically if I don't like a book, I just don't want to think about it any longer, much less write a review. This one surprised me enough that I just had to get it out of my system. :)

  13. Ah. No wonder I have this on iPod and still have never listened beyond the first few pages being read aloud. I see your point, and I didn't even complete the book! (Plus, I hated The Life of Pi, didn't ever finish that, either. But, Le Petit Prince? C'est magnifique! Vraiment!)

  14. Yeah, I felt a little bad lumping in The Little Prince, but for whatever reason I don't hold an attachment to it...and there was desert and exploration, and well. There it is. :)

  15. Hahaha, I Hated this book. Capital H. A random selection from the Hallmark bargain bin greeting cards will be more profound and a stick of dynamite would be more subtle. There's my rant. I 'm glad that there are others out there were equally put off by this tripe.

  16. Ha! "A stick of dynamite would be more subtle." Thanks for the good laugh, that was great.


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