Thursday, 20 June 2013

Book Review No. 10

Well, that really was some break in proceedings, wasn't it? Many apologies for the lack of posts recently - we went on holiday, we got delayed on holiday (48 extra hours of fun in the sun, thank you very much), we came back, I was super-busy with work and now, finally, I've got some time to blog. Phew!

So, without further ado, I'm going to crack on with this long overdue book review. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

This was a choice from Book Club No. 2 (I belong to two book clubs, although I tend to dip in and out of Book Club No.2 more than I ever do with Book Club No.1; it's a much more informal gathering of an evening at different houses, with drinks and nibbles; that's not to say BC.1 is formal, it's just different.) Anyhoo, back to the point. This book (or another by the same author, I can't really be sure) was on my unread bookshelf for a very long time, making me feel guilty about not reading such a 'worthy' book until I dispensed with it (via the wonder that is eBay) and the guilt was gone. Ha. And then someone at BC2 suggested we read this one as she had enjoyed it and it was short. Well, the latter was a definite plus for me, if not the former as we all know that just because someone else enjoys a book, it's no guarantee that you will do the same.

The basic story is that of a lowly Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who meets a mysterious old man who tells him he will find his fortune at the pyramids in Egypt. So Santaigo sells his flock and sets off overland towards Egypt. He doesn't get very far before losing all his money (not only is he lowly, he's also very naive), and so he is forced to stay in Africa and work to earn enough money to either continue his travels or return home. After a year of working and saving he joins a caravan and sets off across the desert towards Egypt, but rumours of a tribal war force the caravan to stop at an oasis, where Santiago meets and falls in love with a local girl. More travelling and philosophising ensue before Santiago finally makes it to the pyramids. And I'm not going to spoil it for you and tell you whether he finds a pot of gold, just in case you want to read the book yourself!

So, my thoughts: I've never been a great believer in/fan of what I consider to be tree-hugging, knit-your-own-yak's-wool-teabag kind of books. Philosophy/self help/call it what you will, I'm more inclined to just say "Have a piece of cake and pull yourself together", because that's the sort of kind and caring individual I am. And thus I tend to avoid these books like the plague; perhaps I'm wrong to lump Mr Coelho into this category, but I don't think so. Which of course meant that I started reading The Alchemist with more than my fair share of doubt and scepticism and mostly it was not unfounded. Basically this is a folk tale or parable, all about following your dreams but actually discovering that everything you wanted was right there all along, you just needed to go out, have a good look around and see that things weren't so bad where you came from after all. That's not to say that you wouldn't learn things and enjoy great and not-so-great experiences along the way, but the grass is always greener, etc, etc.
The book is only 170-odd pages long so I didn't mind reading it really - the end was always in sight as I huffed my way through some parts wondering at what sort of person takes this all to heart and finds inspiration within these pages. Hmmmm. Yes, there are a few sentences that make you stop and think, mostly those that encourage you to enjoy the time you have and live in the moment, which is something we all need reminding of every now and again, but then there are sentences like this: "when you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it".
Really? Is that what happens? I really want to win the lottery, lose 2 stone and grow three inches taller. Universe, are you listening? You need to conspire and help me out here. That sounds to be a bit like wanting something and expecting it to happen just because you want it enough. I thnk you'll find that if you really want something, you have to do something to go about making it happen yourself - buy a lottery ticket, stop eating all that cake, wear high heels. For instance.
All in all, this was not a good book for me, nor I a good reader for the book.
But, I promise the next book gets a positive review. Honest!


  1. I'm with you on this type of book, it was on my list, thanks to you I can skip it.

  2. Glad to be of service! Although I'm sure there are lots of people who would urge you to read the book, it's such a subjective thing, isn't it?


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