Reading Challenge Book 2: Paul Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’

My reading challenge is coming along a little slower than I had anticipated, sadly. I got sidetracked by a book that I had desperately wanted to read for ages (William Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’), and when I finally got my hands on it, I was massively disappointed. Were my expectations too high? Is it actually just an overhyped book? I couldn’t quite decide. All I can tell you is that it is really rare that I don’t finish a book, but it happened in this case. I just couldn’t stomach the thought that I was devoting time to something I really wasn’t enjoying, especially since ‘Me Before You’ was such a success story in my eyes. Begrudgingly, and after giving a lot more time to it than I probably should have, I put it down, gave it back to the person who lent it to me, and moved on to the next one.

You’ll be glad to hear that I had a lot more luck with ‘The Alchemist’. Do you believe in reading a certain book at a certain time in your life? Well, I do, and this book is proof of that. It seemed to tie in with things that are going on in my life at the moment, and it really resonated with me.

The story follows a shepherd, a boy who left the path his family wanted for him in order to travel and see more of the world. He has a recurring dream in which he is told he will find treasure at the pyramids of Egypt, and upon waking decides to test the weight of this. He meets a diverse set of characters in his mission, and they all represent the types of people every single one of us will meet as we go through life. On top of that, he learns a great deal about himself and the world, and it was these life lessons that struck a chord with me.

The idea that love, real love, can allow you to go out there and accomplish all the things you’re destined to do is something that I’ve seen for myself recently. The support network I have around me is completely filled with people who allow me to achieve time and time again: family, boyfriend, friends – they’re all there encouraging me to do whatever I find myself wanting to do and providing endless encouragement, picking me up and cheering me on when I’m in danger of becoming my own worst enemy. Then there’s the message that you should follow your dreams. Go for the things that you want for the sole reason that you want them, regardless of what it takes or how far you have to go to get them.

We see the central character of the story, the shepherd, learn that the universe will conspire to help those who go after their destiny. Whilst this particular message feels a little too spiritual for me, I can’t help but believe in it somewhat, especially at the moment. The things that are meant to happen will always find a way of happening, as long as there’s a healthy combination of fate, opportunity, and good old-fashioned hard work. Recently, I went after something I’d wanted for a long time – a career in an industry that I can see a future in, a chance to really make something of myself. And I got it. The combination of everything good I have in my life led me to getting it, and I couldn’t be more grateful (even if I am still a little in shock to find myself here!).

Ultimately, I was really impressed by this book. It read well simply taken as a story about one boy’s adventure, but it also found a way to deal with much bigger ideas in an uncomplicated way. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who was looking for a shorter but still engaging book, and it’s proof that a good story doesn’t have to be the size of ‘War and Peace’!

I’m now on to book 3, which is also the beginning of my project to read the entire works of Paul Auster, so keep an eye out for a post on that in the near future.

Have any of you read ‘The Alchemist’? What were your thoughts? I’d also love to hear if any of you have made it through ‘Birdsong’ and whether you think I should give it another chance in the future?

Holly x

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