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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Alchemist

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”

Yeah, right! As if! I really wanted to get to work on time today and the frickin’ car broke down. Which universe are we talking about then?

In all fairness to Paulo Coelho though, The Alchemist is narrated in the style of a fable, and fables are not meant to be taken literally. The entire book, if I understand correctly, is a metaphor for self-actualization or fulfillment of one’s ultimate goal in life. It all seems very Woodstock to me. I have read online articles about this book praising it for the life lessons it (allegedly) contains. I have to admit that I have gained no insight at all from reading this book. I tried reading between the lines but all I saw were blank spaces. This book reminds me a little bit of Life of Pi, though "Pi" is much more appealing.

Wait a minute, I am beginning to sound like I am disparaging this (allegedly) profound little best selling book. I actually quite enjoyed reading it, taken at face value without trying to decipher the meaning of life, the universe and everything it is a fairly entertaining book. I was not bored at any point, but I did chuckle a few times at how ludicrous I find the philosophical discussions to be.

The trouble with the fable format is that I could not believe any of it any more than I can believe a wolf can blow houses down (unless it is some kind of cyborg wolf). The characters in this novel do not behave in the way real people do. For example the protagonist Santiago declares his love for the desert girl Fatima on their first meeting and she does not bat an eye lid. She even agrees to wait for him for however long he takes to complete his life mission to achieve his Personal Legend. Surely even love at first sight is more subtle than this. The numerous sage passages are mostly nonsensical to me. For example:
“Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”
Say what? How is anything supposed to happen twice (let alone thrice) if they can not happen more than once? Am I reading this too literally again? Gimme some of that weed man!

The audiobook I read is beautifully narrated by Jeremy Irons who sounds almost exactly like Neil Gaiman here (if you have listened to Neil Gaiman narrating a book you will know what I mean). A huge improvement on his reading of Lolita which I think is a little over the top and rendered that book harder to follow.

So, my Goodreads friends, is this a good read? I kind of think so. It passes the time pleasantly, just don’t expect it to change your life.

Highly recommended if you are going to San Francisco wearing some flowers in your hair.

(3.5 stars)