The Alchemist: Book summary and reviews of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

By Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  May 1993,
    192 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

Like the one-time bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Alchemist presents a simple fable, based on simple truths and places it in a highly unique situation. And though we may sniff a bestselling formula, it is certainly not a new one: even the ancient tribal storytellers knew that this is the most successful method of entertaining an audience while slipping in a lesson or two. Brazilian storyteller Paulo Coehlo introduces Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. And so he's off: leaving Spain to literally follow his dream.

Along the way he meets many spiritual messengers, who come in unassuming forms such as a camel driver and a well-read Englishman. In one of the Englishman's books, Santiago first learns about the alchemists--men who believed that if a metal were heated for many years, it would free itself of all its individual properties, and what was left would be the "Soul of the World." Of course he does eventually meet an alchemist, and the ensuing student-teacher relationship clarifies much of the boy's misguided agenda, while also emboldening him to stay true to his dreams. "My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy confides to the alchemist one night as they look up at a moonless night.

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself," the alchemist replies. "And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity." --Gail Hudson

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"This inspirational fable by Brazilian author and translator Coelho has been a runaway bestseller throughout Latin America and seems poised to achieve the same prominence here .... The cumulative effect is like hearing a wonderful bedtime story from an inspirational psychiatrist. Comparisons to The Little Prince are appropriate; this is a sweetly exotic tale for young and old alike. " - Publishers Weekly.

"This simple, yet eloquent parable celebrates the richness of the human spirit. A young Spanish shepherd seeking his destiny travels to Egypt where he learns many lessons, particularly from a wise old alchemist. The real alchemy here, however, is the transmuting of youthful idealism into mature wisdom. The blending of conventional ideas with an exotic setting makes old truths seem new again. This shepherd takes the advice Hamlet did not heed, learning to trust his heart and commune with it as a treasured friend. Enjoyable and easy to read, this timeless fantasy validates the aspirations and dreams of youth." - School Library Journal.

"The absence of characterization and overall blandness suggest authorship by a committee of self-improvement pundits--a far cry from The Little Prince: that flagship of the genre was a genuine charmer because it clearly derived from a quirky, individual sensibility. Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls." - Kirkus Reviews.

The information about The Alchemist shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Cloggie Downunder
A charming read
The Alchemist is the first novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho and this edition is translated by Alan. R. Clarke. It is the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearning to travel motivates him to take a chance and search for his destiny. Along the way he encounters a Gypsy, a King, a thief, a merchant, an Englishman, a camel driver, the love of his life, a Tribal Chief and of course, the Alchemist. He leaves Spain, travels to Africa, to the Pyramids, earns money and loses it, and learns about much along the way, including the Soul of the World, The Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life. There is lots of profound wisdom contained in this little story: “It’s not what enters men’s mouths that’s evil,” said the Alchemist. “It’s what comes out of their mouths that is.” “You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” “….the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.” Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.” “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” “…when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” A charming read.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Buddy Langton
The Alchemist-simple and inspiring but lacking in power to awe some readers
Before I ever opened this book, I had heard that it was special and different than most other books. So, the first time I picked it up I was surprised by how short it was along with how large the print looked. This was not a Tale of Two Cities, or a War & Peace, but I remembered that it was supposed to be one of those classic books of our time. Excitedly, I jumped into my reading and finished in about three days.

I don’t know if I can agree with the praise Paulo Coelho includes in the introduction he wrote for the novel. He cites how it has been translated into 56 languages and sold more than twenty million copies but does make sure to state that the reason for this success is unknown to him. I had my hopes and doubts going into this short story that was supposedly so good. However, I must admit I was surprised in certain manners and ultimately unimpressed in others.

Coelho founds his entire story on one idea: All individuals are connected to the universe and are called upon to fulfill a mission in life, a “personal legend”. Coehlo teaches that the universe “prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.”

Coelho does a very good job of illustrating how once you realize your “personal mission” and truly want it, “all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” Many dead ends in the story turn out to be just beginnings to a new path. Coelho excels at creating these realistic problems so that the reader feels pulled into these situations and is easily able to ask themselves what they would do in the same situation.

Coelho did lose me near the end of the story as he attempted to expand on the idea of a living, inter-connected universe, trying to show how magic, destiny, and a myriad of other “mythical” themes are real and can assist each person in their quest to find and accomplish their “personal legend”. I believe that there are forces in the world that work in my favor, but as a reader, I have trouble relating the magical experiences of the young shepherd boy to my own life.

Essentially a well written, yet profoundly simple book, The Alchemist seems to be a feel-good book that could become something akin to a Bible for those who feel lost in life, or little more than an easy read for those who already feel they have found their “personal legend”.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Paulo Coelho Author Biography

Xavier Gonzales

Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1970, after deciding that law school was not for him, he traveled through much of South America, North Africa, Mexico, and Europe. Returning to Brazil after two years, he began a successful career as a popular songwriter. In 1974, he was imprisoned for a short time by the military dictatorship then ruling in Brazil.

In 1988, Coelho published The Alchemist, which has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 41 languages. He has written more than a dozen novels, including The Pilgrimage and Veronika Decides to Die, both of which are being adapted to film.

Coelho is an outspoken activist for peace and social justice, and also supports the free distribution of his work. He and his wife Christina split their ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Paulo Coelho's Website

Name Pronunciation
Paulo Coelho: POW-loo KWAY-lew

Other books by Paulo Coelho at BookBrowse

8 more...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

More Recently Published Novels

more...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh
  2.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin

All Discussions

Who Said...

Harvard is the storehouse of knowledge because the freshmen bring so much in and the graduates take so little out.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.