HarperCollins, 2006, paperback (ISBN 0061122416 / 9780061122415)
Fiction, 208 pages
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First Sentence: The boy's name was Santiago.
Book Description: The Alchemist has already established itself as a modern classic, universally admired. Paulo Coelho's charming fable, now available in English for the first time, will enchant and inspire an even wider audience of readers for generations to come.
The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist.
The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, above all, following our dreams.
Comments: It really doesn't matter what the boy's name was, since it's rarely mentioned after the first sentence; he's referred to as "the boy" for most of this fable about holding on to your dream - or, as it's called here, your Personal Legend. If you know your Personal Legend and don't let yourself be swayed from the path to achieve it, everything you need will come to you - it's kind of like "The Secret." (I guess it is, anyway, never having read The Secret.)
On its back cover, the book is described as one of those that "changes readers' lives forever." I'm afraid I didn't think it was that profound, but I did enjoy it. The story of the boy's odyssey from Spain, across the Sahara to Egypt, and back again is a beautifully told tale. I read it in translation, of course, but I liked the use of language here - there was a lovely lyrical flow. It's a fairly quick read, but engrossing; I wouldn't describe it as inspirational, but it is inspiring.
Unfortunately, it's also a difficult book to review because of its simplicity, if that makes any sense. I'm not sure I would have read The Alchemist if it hadn't been chosen for my book club this month, but I'm glad to have had the opportunity.
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