book review: The Alchemist

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Before I get into this, I have to say that there will be lots of spoilers in this post. If you haven’t read the book and want nothing of it, stop reading now! With that said, even with the “spoilers” that I’m going to unleash it is still a very worth while read because the book is ultimately up to ones own interpretations of meaning. 

Also, as an aside, it seems like with all these book posts lately that I must have become some kind of literature student or something. The truth is, I just haven’t been too busy with pictures in the past few weeks and instead have been focusing more on the business side of things. With that being said “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo was a quick read packed full of hidden meanings and I would recommend it to all who are on a journey to seek out their personal legends. 


“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

- Paulo Coelho


The premise of “The Alchemist” is the idea of finding ones own personal legend as the book describes. This personal legend could be interpreted as ones purpose in life, or the meaning of life as a whole. The meaning of life of course is different for everyone as we find out throughout the book. Throughout the book there are many lessons learned, however these are really things we all know at heart. They are things that we have forgotten in our so called busy and materialistic lives. 

The story stars Santiago, a boy who decided leave the life that was created for him by his family in order to become a shepherd because he wanted to see the world. Throughout his journey he meets many several people all of which provides him valuable life lessons. 

We start off with Santiago sleeping in an abandoned church in his native Spain and he had a dream that he needed to go find some hidden treasure. The first person he meets is a gypsy lady who reads his palms and tells him that his treasure is hidden in the Pyramids of Egypt. Santiago didnt even know where Egypt is so he was reluctant to go. 

The next person he meets is an old king, and this is where I believe the first life lesson is found. The old king tells Santiago the worlds greatest lie is that “at some point during our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.” This follows suit with the “it was written” principle, one that a part of my believes in, but I think the bigger part of me believes in writing our own stories. I feel that our lives are not written and that it is up to us to write the life that we want and not settling for what was “written” for us.

Santiago’s journey then brings him to a crystal merchant who he ends up working with over the next year. The book talks a lot about omens, signs in life and the crystal merchant was one of them. He is a dedicated muslim, and part of being muslim means making a trip to Islam at least once in your life. The crystal merchant cannot get himself to go for he feels that his finances will not allow him to. If he leaves his shop, there is no one to take care of his goods, and he is not making any money. Yet, many of his peers who have a lesser income have made the trip out to Islam. The crystal merchant is therefore living out a story he wrote for himself as the only limitations are created in his mind. He is a sign of what happens when one doesn’t pursue their personal legends. 

The thought of quitting was in Santiago’s mind. He was planning to work at the crystal shop until he had enough money to go back home, however after his experience with the crystal merchant, he decided that he must continue on his journey to Egypt. On his way he meets an englishman who’s personal legend is to find and meet the Alchemist. Santiago has never heard of the Alchemist before, however through their journey together the englishman shares his wealth of knowledge with him. One key thing that was discussed was how the Alchemist would spend years removing impurities from metals in order to turn them into gold. The lesson here is that we must remove our impurities, any distractions or noise that could get in the way of us reaching our own person legends. 

When the caravan to the Pyramids finally stops, they find themselves at Al-Fayoum, a desert oasis. It is here where two major events happen. The first is that this is where Santiago meets Fatima, the love of his life. At this point he was content to stay at the oasis and settle down with Fatima. This is where the second major point comes in, as just outside of the oasis, he meets the Alchemist who tells him that he must continue on his journey towards the Pyramids to fulfil his person legend. At a dilemma he consults Fatima on what to do next and she says that he needs to continue on his journey and that she will be there, waiting for his return. The lesson here is that relationships should never hinder ones journey towards their dreams. Relationships should strengthen and support an individual, not bring them down.

Throughout the book there is a lot of talk about the energy of the universe and the language of life. I believe that when one has their mind strongly set on something that is true to themselves, everything in their life will suddenly point to the answers. These are often answers we find within ourselves, however it is our journeys in life that brings them out. When Santiago finally makes it to the pyramids the last omen that he receives tells him that his treasure is hidden in an abandoned church in Spain, where he initially started his journey. Throughout his quest for the pyramids, he grew emotionally, mentally and spiritually as the true treasure was his journey in life. When our time is up, we cannot take our physical treasures along with us, but it is the path that we’ve traveled on and the people that we leave an impression behind that makes it all worth while.


Wilson Lau

Photographer of weddings, and people alike.