The Alchemist, A Review

May 8th, 2009

My book club recently met to discuss The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  This small and unassuming book has sold over 65 MILLION copies and holds the Guinness Book of World Records for being translated into more languages than any other book by a living author.  I did not know any of these facts about the book when I was reading it and I am glad.  If I had known, I am sure it would have colored my perception of the book. Instead, I read the book completely unaware that I was holding a cultural phenomena in my hands.



The book was met with mixed reviews by the members of my book club, however the spicy, roasted red pepper hummus that Dina served alongside our book club discussion was met with hearty approval all around.  I hope she sends me that recipe soon!   Oh!… and that pretty blond with the glasses is one of the three blonds of Three Blonds and the Law.



I liked the book for the most part…

Until I began to grow weary of a few certain phrases…

But first a brief synopsis.


The Alchemist is the story of an adolescent shepherd boy who chooses to become a shepherd over entering the priesthood like his parents had hoped.  One night while sleeping in an abandoned church on his ‘sheep route’, he has a dream.  That dream eventually leads him to an old man called Melchizidek.   Anyone familiar with Bible history will realize that this is probably a metaphor for God.  Melchizidek equips the boy with a few items for his journey, requests payment for his wares and his sage counsel in sheep, and sends the boy off on a quest to find his treasure.  

I enjoyed the boy’s journey.  I was completely swept up in the story of his travels and his adventures until about two thirds of the way through the book.  At which point I began to grow weary of a few phrases that seemed to jump out of every corner of the book.  I started to feel as if I were being beaten over the head with these phrases.  I began to attempt to avoid these phrases at all costs.  I found myself ducking into the frozen food aisle of our small town grocery, to avoid being seen by these phrases.  I began wearing dark sunglasses and a wig whenever I went out so that the phrases would not recognize me.  

I refused to leave my house.  

I put black paper on the windows.

I spoke in whispers 

I hid out in the basement.


The phrases that I began to find very disturbing were…


The Soul of The World

The Language of The World

The Philosopher’s Stone

The Elixir of Life


Personal Legend


These phrases appear in Coelho’s book something like a million times…

They are always capitalized to set them off.

I read these heavy handed phrases over and over and over again.

I eventually began to find the phrases absurd.  

AND THEN… I started to feel like the book was a parody of itself.

AND THEN… I started to feel like the book was a Saturday Night Live skit.

AND THEN… I started to think that I was on Saturday Night Live and had to give the cute little speech that starts out the show.

AND THEN… I started to obsess about what I would wear when I was on Saturday Night Live giving the cute little speech.

AND THEN… I started to wonder about the last time I really saw a good Saturday Night Live…

AND THEN… I started to wonder about the last time I actually SAW Saturday Night Live…



I stopped watching it during the era of this particular actress…


Because I have never found her to be funny.

Not one single time.

Not even a teensy bit.

I just don’t get her.

Am I alone in this thinking?


Thus ends my review of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

And also of the actress/comedienne, Tina Fey.



Did you know that Paulo Coelho has a blog?!?!

Check it out and you can tell him what you think about forgiving and forgetting.  He wants to know!


  • Yes – he has a very good blog, I think! I felt kind of the same reading his book.. although I missed out on the whole Saturday Night Live thing…

  • Great book review. Won’t be reading that on Amazon, I’m sure. I have heard that Coelho was a great writer, but maybe this was one of his clunkers.

    I was raised on SNL by Chevy Chase. No one comes close since he was there. Although Tina Fey’s rendition of Sarah Palin was priceless.

    You remain the benchmark for blogging, my friend.


    • Rechelle:

      Hey Kent,

      I think it is one of his greats. I did really like the book until the last bit when I just couldn’t take the heavy handed phrases anymore. Then again, I have never exactly been known as one that could tolerate even the slightest of irritations very well…

  • Now see, when you stated this post I was all “Ooo! I should go add this to my Shelfari list of stuff to read!” But by the end? You’ve convinced me not to. I had the same issue with the Twilight series. I could only take so many descriptions of Edwards fabulous cold marble chest. Ugh.

    Tina Fey is hit or miss for me. But she was amazing as Palin. Provided you weren’t a Palin fan. : )

  • I thought Tina was funny. I’ve never read the above book. But I like your book club. Can you cater mine?

  • Roseanne:

    Just found your blog and love it. I don’t think I’m going to read this book after reading your post. However, I think you need to give Tina Fey another chance and start watching 30 Rock. I find it to be hilarious.

  • I just realized that I downloaded this book FREE from ITUNES and I have never listened to it. Maybe I should…:)

    And BTW…I like Tina Fey and I like your blog, I guess I can like BOTH! :)

  • Won’t be getting to that book, either, but maybe if I had a book club where someone fed me, I would read it. I’m a tough sell like that. I agree with Roseanne: love 30 Rock and Tina Fey. Do you still have to sneak down to your basement to watch t.v.?

  • Bridget:

    I read the book so long ago that I have little to comment on. I do remember that I was reading it while at an ashram and everyone thought it was all the rage and I felt like I was missing the point. But I do think that I garnered some sort of wisdom from it.

    But what shocks me. And I am not trying to be a hater. But what shocks me is the people on here that don’t think that for themselves. They won’t be reading since you said it was bad instead of deciding for themselves. Not that you aren’t a force of nature and a trendsetter. But I just feel that we are in danger of not enough people thinking for themselves, so I feel the need to be a big, pain in the arse and point it out. Sorry it just scares me.

    • Rechelle:

      For me it depends on who is giving the opinion. If it is someone who has led me to great books in the past, I am happy to let them persuade me. But if it is a book that I really wanted to read, I would probably read it anyway. It just depends on the situation. I would highly recommend that no one pay any attention to my opinions about books. I just like to talk about them. Oh and I did like most of this book… just the last bit that wore me out.

  • Hey girl, thanks for the link love. Loved your take on our evening :-)

  • ABQ Steph:

    I haven’t read the book either but the real reason for my comment is just to add my two cents worth to Bridget’s comment above. Before I even got to her comment I was thinking, wow, someone won’t try something based on one person’s bad review. How odd! I have to agree that too many of us don’t make the effort to form our own opinions! Really enjoy the blog and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

  • Oohh…how scary that some might not read that book! Taking advice from a friend? What is the world coming to?

    Sorry! *clears throat* I started that book and couldn’t finish it. I thought it was overbearing and overwrought and took itself Much Too Seriously. Why is it an international phenomena? Don’t ask me.

  • Cathie:

    I started reading the book and couldn’t get into it. Have you read The Shack, now there’s a book to read. It’s the kind of book that you just have to talk about with someone when you’re done.

    • Rechelle:

      Loved The Shack Cathie. Balled like a baby all the way through it. I don’t know why it got to me, but it did.

  • Susan:

    Love Tina Fey’s dry wit and have recently been watching 30 Rock…but mainly for the hilarious Alec Baldwin. And I have been watching SNL from its inception but was NEVER able to abide Chevy Chase.

  • Susan:

    p.s. I would never have thought that Alec Baldwin and hilarious would go hand in hand. But he was a guest on SNL over 10 times and he was fabulous in every appearance. His deadpan humor was spot on.

  • Have never read that book but will check it out and see what I think of it. Also I have read “The Shack” Would be a great book
    for a book club to discuss.

  • I haven’t had time to read a book in ages. When I do, I usually pick up a favorite to “take me away”.

    I think Tina Fey is a comic genius, though.

  • I took a stupid Facebook quiz to see what book character I am, and I got The Alchemist. (Which character in the book is The Alchemist? Is it the shepherd? Is it God?) I’ve been wondering about the book ever since. I’m not sure from your review whether I should read the book or not. Those phrases annoyed me seeing them just once. I’m not entirely sure why.

    I think Tina Fey can be funny, but she has more of a dry sense of humor. She plays the straight man for other people to bounce their comedy off of. I think she’s also a writer for SNL, and I think her strength lies in writing comedy more than in performing it. I did love the Sarah Palin skits, but the political skits are always my favorite.

    BTW, though Facebook says the book character I am is The Alchemist, the *book* I am is To Kill a Mockingbird. Usually those quizzes make no sense, but I think that was pretty spot on. I know how you love Facebook, so I thought I’d just ramble on about it some more. It’s very good for those times when my brain isn’t functioning well enough to blog and there are no new blog posts in my reader.

  • Jenni – If you are the Alchemist, I would consider that an very high compliment. The Alchemist is the wiseman. The one who has figured out the secrets to life… Sort of a mysitical figure. Of course, to Kill a Mocking Bird is also a great. I would go with this description and I would print it out on a badge and wear it on my chest every single day.

  • Hi, – da best. Keep it going!

  • Kait:

    Perhaps it lost something in translation. Not trying to be funny. But was English the original language? Because if not, that could be what annoyed you. They say when you translate, much is lost. I have found that to be true. BUT sometimes you can be beaten about the head with overused phrases, words, sentence structures. In the same book or even across years of books by various authors. Annoying as hell when you come across it.
    So would you recommend the book then? Or should I avoid having to avoid? Just kidding. Not quite my cup of tea. But that Pillars of the Earth? I am going to the library this week… :)