I read The Alchemist because it showed up on two Top 5 lists of people I know when I polled my playgroup moms in New York for book recommendations. I'd never heard of it, but if two people loved it, it must be worthwhile. So I started it and it wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I continued. Kat told me she knows people who hate it and love it so let her know which I am. Being basically easy to please, I fully expected to love it.
But I just couldn't. Good heavens, I got more and more annoyed every time I read it. I have been known to not finish books when they're really bad - I'm such a slow reader I hate to waste too much time. But The Alchemist is so short I decided to stick it out no matter how amazingly lame it got. And it got pretty bad. I thought to blame it partially on the translation, but it wasn't just the language; it was the whole story and telling of it. Minimal character development. Maximal new agey spiritual quasi-philosphical conversations full of capitalized terms like Personal Legend, Soul of the World, Master Work, and Language of the World. Plus a couple of biblical references thrown in for good measure - Urim and Thummim and Melchezidek, and plenty of omens, universal forces, and voices. Oh, and don't forget "listen to your heart."
I read the words but much of the time I couldn't understand what in the world they were trying to get at, and worse, didn't care to. It's the story of a boy's journey to find his destiny, so it had plenty of potential to be touching, uplifting and adventurous, but it was too weird. I kept thinking a story told this way must be trying to be an analogy, and I suppose it was. It certainly supported some good, if cliche, life lessons, like "Life is a journey, not a destination" and "Your treasure is where your heart is." I even admit to being surprisingly pleased with the twist at the end, but only because at that point I was near hating the book.
I don't know, read it if you want to and enlighten me, but I can't recommend it.
And I'm not alone - out of 1,267 reviewers on Amazon, it received an average of 4 stars, and the rating shook out like this:
5 stars - 735
4 stars - 2153 stars - 94
2 stars - 93
1 star - 130
Me, I'm near the bottom. This book receives a scant 2 disco balls from me, and I'm moving on to my next book without a moment's more reflection. It was definitely no Three Cups of Tea, which I read earlier this summer and which affected me so deeply I'm still trying to find the words to explain how wonderful it is.