Monday, 5 January 2015

Reading Challenge: Read a ‘Bestseller’ I have never heard of

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Brief Overview: The Alchemist is a novel written by Brazilian-born Paulo Coelho in 1988. It has been translated from Portuguese into 56 languages, and the front cover informs me that it has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, the record for the most translated book by any living author. I felt silly when seeing this, that I had never even heard of the book. I didn’t know anybody else that had read it, had no idea what the book was about and went in with absolutely no pre-conceptions. Having read reviews online I’m glad I went into it knowing nothing as Paulo Coelho seems to be an author who massively divides opinions and if I had read some of the criticisms of him I probably wouldn't have read the book at all! Anyway, I did and here is what I thought about it.

In a nutshell: I really didn't get on very well with this book.

Would you recommend this book? I know some people who would probably enjoy this book and value the moral lessons, but on the whole I wouldn't recommend this as I myself didn't like it.

How quickly did you read it? Only took a few hours. My edition has 161 pages and the text is huge!

Why did you choose to read this book? It was actually given to me as a present, and as it seems to be hugely popular, I decided that it must be something worth reading.

Favourite aspect of the book? I think there are some things the book highlights that were great, and I can see why some people would find it inspiring. The idea of not giving up on following your dreams in favour of settling into a ‘safe’ routine, and the importance of not being scared to fail, for example. Those aspects were good (though very repetitive). I also felt compelled, despite the fact I wasn't actually enjoying it, to read to the end to see what the treasure was and reveal the solution to the mystery. Partly, I wanted to see whether it changed my opinion of the rest of the book and partly because it had my curiosity.

Anything you didn't like? Being completely honest I didn't really like the story or the way it was written. Maybe this is unfair as the book is translated, but I found the prose simplistic and a bit boring. I felt like the book was seeking to have some profound effect on my life and being honest…it hasn't.

Any additional thoughts? I think the main gripe I have with this book is that it comes across as incredibly preachy. It is as if the author has gone about his writing with the intention of making every sentence ‘deep’, and as a result it took itself too seriously and nearly made me laugh at some points (and not in a good way). I also had quite an issue with some of the morals involved. Yes, there were some aspects which I agreed with, but some I found to be questionable. I won’t spoil what it is but I really didn't like what the treasure turned out to be in the end – I found it contradicted the rest of the book. The messages I did see as being valuable were not, in my opinion, anything new at all. These morals have been included in many works of literature and film before and in a far more subtle way.

Sorry for the negative review but I want to record everything I read, even if I don’t like it at all. Looking around this seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book, and I really can see why some people loved it if the issues dealt with are things they haven’t necessarily thought of before. Myself, I am going to be moving on to a new book pretty quickly and won’t be re-reading this.
I would be really interested to hear what other people have to say about this book, particularly if you are someone who really enjoyed it. I would love to know what others thought about the ending.

Beth x


  1. That's a really interesting review, I've never heard of the book either! If I saw it on the shelf I don't think I'd read it, but I am intrigued!

    Great blog so far :)


  2. Ah if you read it let me know! Even though I didn't really enjoy it, it was definitely a book I wanted to discuss after, which can only be a good thing!

    I think sometimes it is nice to read a book you know absolutely nothing about so you just go into it and make up you're own mind about everything :) In saying that I do love book reviews so that's pretty rare haha!

    Thanks for checking out the blog xx

  3. I couldn't get into this either when I tried to read it a bit ago. I'm still loving your question/answer format. Would you mind if I adapted the style if not the exact questions for my blog?

    1. Hi Jenna :) I'm glad someone else had the same experience and it's not just me!

      And yes of course that's fine, go for it! Looking forward to when the blog gets going!


  4. While I can't say I didn't enjoy the Alchemist at all, I haven't found it eye opening or motivating either. All books of Paulo Coelho I've read so far (three) follow the same pattern or formula. It's charming, but it's not profound or life changing.