The Alchemist is a delightful new book by Paulo Coelho. Despite its title the main story is not about an Alchemist by about a Spanish shepherd boy named Santiago and his adventures. When exactly it takes place is never stated but it appears to take place sometime before the First World War.
Santiago is not a typical shepherd. he was educated to be a priest but wanted to see the world instead. In the rural part of Spain he was from the only people who traveled were shepherds so he becomes one.
But then he had a dream about finding a fortune in a far away place. He consults a Gypsy woman who tells him he must travel to the Pyramids in Egypt to find his fortune. Santiago sells his sheep and the rest of the story is about his travels through the Middle East searching for his treasure.
Santiago also has unusual powers. He can read the omens and the signs of the animals and has dreams that can foretell things. Along the way he meets an English Chemist who is trying to earn the secrets of the ancient alchemists who could supposedly turn lead into gold.
Paul Coelho is what is called a “spiritual” writer. Some readers may not like to book since they may feel the author is trying to force a religious point of view on them disguised as an adventure story.
However, he is really not profession any specific religion. The book basically portrays the world as being a mixture of the physical the spiritual and the unknown. The English chemist, for example cannot turn lead into gold since he is trying to approach it only using what he knows of the physical world. Santiago, on the other hand, learns more in his travels than the chemist since he is willing to accept the concept of gaining knowledge from any source, whether it be standard learning, or a symbol from two hawks flying.
I found this book very enjoyable to read. Paulo Coelho has written an entire series of such books. I am not sure I would read many more in the series, however, since he does push the spirituality side a little too hard. I think it would be better if he were to concentrate more on the story and let the readers come to their own conclusions on how to interpret the events.
However, I would certainly recommend that everyone read at least Coelho book and see if they like this style.