Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - Book Review #13

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho has been around for a while, and, as of late, has been popping up everywhere I look. The reason for this is that it is the 20th anniversary of its original release. My Bac Ninh friend sent it to me in April. I read it then, but I'm just now getting around to writing about it. The reason for this procrastination is not laundry or dishes or groceries. It is that I have approval issues. I don't want to disappoint my Bac Ninh friend by telling her I didn't like it. Additionally, a person for whom I care immensely doesn't like it when I post negative reviews. And furthermore, it is listed as one of the best selling books of all time. There are millions of people I worry about disappointing. Do you see my problem? Well, here at Civil Thoughts we are all about the truth and what follows is the truth, the whole truth, so help me God.

This is a fable about a shepherd boy who travels to pursue his destiny. On his journey, he encounters many people who provide words of wisdom. At the beginning, the boy thinks, "People say strange things, the boy thought. Sometimes it's better to be with the sheep, who don't say anything. And better still to be alone with one's books. They tell their incredible stories at the time when you want to hear them. But when you're talking to people, they say some things that are so strange that you don't know how to continue the conversation." That is exactly how I felt about this book; it was full of things so strange that I just didn't know how to continue in the conversation. Clearly, the author's intent was to inspire. I was completely uninspired. Since millions of people seem to have been profoundly moved by it, maybe there is something wrong with me.

The most significant reason I didn't like this book is because Coelho tries to pull facets of every religion into helping the boy reach his destiny. Last time I checked, all the religions of the world don't mesh real well together. Pick one. Stick with it. Don't try to merge them all together. It doesn't work in a fable, let alone in real life.

There you are. I hated the thing. And now all of you know it and I've disappointed my friend, my person-I-care-for-deeply, and the millions of people reading this blog who loved it. Maybe I'll try reading it in the original language (Portuguese). If change my opinion maybe you all will like me again.


  1. Honesty. It's a beautiful thing. Except when it loses us friends. :-) I know what you mean about approval issues. I could never pursue any career which invited strong opinions and disapproval, like politician. Or preacher.

    Roger Ebert, the film critic, when against the critical grain by actually (gasp) LIKING the movie Knowing. He probably has a couple of friends left.

    I still like you, Staci.

  2. Thanks, Randy. One down, several million more to go in my quest for everyone's approval. :-)