Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Fiction | Spirituality
Synopsis: The book follows an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within.
Would I recommend? If you’re into short, spiritual books.
Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆
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Okay, this book was a huge disappointment. Perhaps I went into this expecting something profound, something life-changing with wonderfully deep writing and a lesson that will stay with me throughout. I mean, yeah, those are huge expectations to meet, but I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about this book. One of my cousins – who barely reads! – absolutely loves this, and she told me that it brought out a strong passion in her for traveling, for following her dreams no matter the hardships along the way. With this in mind, I went into this book with a feeling I was going to love the shit out of it.
I’m not going to be dividing my review into sections like I usually do because I don’t really have much to say. It’s such a short book that I don’t think dividing it into sections will really do any good.
Firstly, I thought that the plot was interesting. Paulo Coelho forms a series of events in his head- one leads to another, which leads to yet another until we get to the very end. It’s a simple start to finish plot, nothing complex, no interweaving story lines. Nothing like that- it’s simple, and there’s a strong back-bone that sometimes branches off, but always returns back to the spine. I enjoyed the several settings Coelho introduces in the novel, and there’s a huge, huge amount of diversity in this which I have not seen recently- this was refreshing. We start in Spain and follow Santiago’s journey through a couple of different towns as he dreams of reaching Egypt to find a treasure. Again, the settings in this book were very strong, and the different people we encounter in these settings had strong, interesting voices.
However, I thought that the message of the novel was overly simplistic. Sometimes, Coelho was trying so hard to ground the message in his reader’s mind, it was kind of like reading a banner that says, “FOLLOW YOUR DREAM. UNDERSTAND?!?!?! FOLLOW IT!!!!” I dislike poorly masked messages within a story. If it’s right there, it doesn’t mean anything to me because I didn’t have to work to find it. Also, Coelho has the tendency to repeat his messages over and over again, which offended my intelligence a little- almost like Coelho didn’t think his readers would get the message unless he repeated it two billion times.
I didn’t care much for the main character, which is surprising since most of the secondary characters were strong, even though we only see them for a few pages at a time. Santiago had no personality. He was a flat character with no distinctive voice. I was not invested in his story, I literally did not care if he got to his treasure or not. The alchemist didn’t do much for me either. When we got to that point in the story, Coelho just dumps a ton of spirituality on his readers- and that’s that. I’m just not about that life. Spiritual stuff is something I like to discover myself rather than being lectured about, you know?
The writing was overly simplistic. Too simplistic for my liking, which is funny because I usually like brevity in novels. It kind of read like an intelligent middle-schooler trying to construct a story. Take “Jason wondered about the sky. It was huge and blue. It was the same all over the world. Jason looked up” as an example. Sure, profound thought, but conveyed in an overly simplistic way. Didn’t work for me. I don’t think I’ll be picking up another Coelho book in quite a while unless somebody whose taste I trust more than my life tells me to do so.
Overall, this novel had a ton of potential. Coelho is obviously knowledgeable about the world, and I almost wished that we got to see more places in this novel. I don’t think spirituality is the right thing for Coelho to write about, but I may be wrong.