The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Why I Read It: The title caught my eye, I wanted something short, and I like Jeremy Irons’s voice.

Where I got it: The library

Narrator: Jeremy Irons

Publisher: (Harper Audio 2001)

Length: ~4 hours

This is a dense, enchanting novel. For only 4 CDs, there is much that happens in this tale. Paulo Coelho has woven together the elements of superstitious magic, the drive for adventure, and need to fulfill a personal legend into the engrossing novel The Alchemist. Santiago is a shepherd because he likes to travel and he gets along with sheep. He travels the valleys of Andalusia, Spain until he has an odd dream. He bargains with an old gypsy to interpret his dream; she says he must go to the pyramids of Egypt to find his treasure. Later, he comes across an old man (the king of Salem) who tells him to pursue his Personal Legend, which entails retrieving his treasure.

Off to Egypt our young hero goes. Along his way to the pyramids, he meets several other men who are pursuing their Personal Legends. Eventually, he meets The Alchemist, a man who has realized his Personal Legend. The two pal around together in the desert, avoiding bandits and placating warring tribes. In the midst of this, Santiago meets Fatima, and the two fall in love. He vows to return to her once he has realized his Personal Legend.

Coelho took threads of the various religions at the time (sometime after the invention of the printing press and before modern day) and braided them together beautifully. Santiago gains wisdom from nearly everything he interacts with throughout the story – the people, his sheep, the desert, and the wind.

Jeremy Irons has been one of my favorite actors for some time, and one of the reasons is because of his voice. I have always found his voice intense and somewhat mysterious; he was an excellent choice for this novel.

What I liked: Adventure; magic; a story about personal growth; sheep; pyramids; Jeremy Irons.

What I disliked: There are only 3 women in this book, all with small roles, 2 of which have the role of Romantic Interest; none of the ladies have a Personal Legend to fulfill.

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