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The Alchemist

Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Published: 1988

Genre: Fiction, Fable

Rating: 2 of 5

Finally, after years of listening jealously to my mother-in-law’s book club experiences, I pulled a group of girlfriends together for our own modest little book club.  Our inaugural meeting was in June and the first book for discussion was The Alchemist.  None of us knew much about it, but had seen it everywhere and figured it would be a good place to start.

The Alchemist is a fable about a young shepherd boy who goes on a journey across Northern Africa in search of his Personal Legend.  During his journey, he encounters a variety of characters, including an alchemist, who impart various words of wisdom about seeking a Personal Legend.

Well, we were wrong.  This was not a good place to start for our book club.  All of the women in our group disliked the book, some quite strongly.  Maybe we were expecting something different or more enlightening, but the universal consensus was that the book was repetitive and rather boring.  Several women commented that the book felt condescending – rather than allowing the reader to ponder through some of the ‘wisdom’ in the book, everything was presented in such a simple and basic manner that the reader feels denied her own opportunity to journey with the book.

The overall message – seek out your Personal Legend and let nothing get in your way – was a nice one, but we had a good discussion around whether the message was also a selfish one.  There were multiple points in the book where the shepherd boy was encouraged to think about Number One and not others who would be affected by his actions.  It was also inevitable that a room full of female attorneys would be concerned about the depiction of women in the book as meek and perpetually waiting for their men.

Despite our disappointment in the book, we did manage to pull some good discussion out of it.  And we learned our lesson – do a bit more research into a book before selecting it!  But hey, all new book clubs have their growing pains, right?

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about The Alchemist:

Adventures in Reading – Revisited: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Books Love Me – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Maw Books Blog – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and a Confession

Old Musty Books – Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist

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