Saturday, August 22, 2015

503 (2015 #60). The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho, performed by Jeremy Irons

I chose this book because it met one of the categories for the Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge (translated from another language, in this case Portuguese), it was short (164 pages), and it was available in audiobook (four discs).  Also, I liked the title - alchemy fascinates me.

Thank goodness the book was short.  What a waste of my time.  But then, I'm not a fan of the "inspirational" genre (so this book could have also fit the "out of your comfort zone" category in the reading challenge).

The alchemist in this fable/parable/allegory is actually not the main character.  That would be an Andalusian shepherd boy, Santiago (mostly called "the boy" in the book, annoyingly).  In pursuit of his "Personal Legend" to find a treasure he's dreamed about, he travels from Tarifa in Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, (in present-day Morocco), across the desert to the Al-Fayoum Oasis, and then on to the pyramids in Egypt.  It takes a long time and he meets a lot of people along the way, including a gypsy woman and a disguised king in Spain, a crystal merchant and an Englishman who wants to be an alchemist in Tangier, and a beautiful woman he immediately falls in love with as well as *the* alchemist at the oasis.

There's lots more (capitalized) drivel in the (print) book, as the boy learns about the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of Life, the Master Work, and the (universal) Language of the World.  He learns to "listen to his heart" and to read omens, and nothing really bad ever happens to him.

I was bothered by the message (page 22) that "to realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation....And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it."  Of course, this only applies to men, because (page 126) "a woman ... knows that she must await her man."

The only good part about this book was listening to actor Jeremy Irons' wonderful voice reading it.  Even so, I can't recommend this overrated fantasy.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.]

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