The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

3/5 stars.
ebook, 192 pages.
Read from September 15 to 25, 2014.

Well ten years after this book was first published, I finally got around to reading it. I can see why this book received a lot of hype as it was published at a time where people’s lives were evolving to reach a level of busyness that hadn’t been seen before and North America was also hit with some economical hardships. The book’s message hits home for anyone who has ever given up on a dream or has stopped dreaming. Most of us get caught up with money and time. We need money to have things and to pay our bills and to do so we often need to work in areas that may not satisfy us which, in turn takes up most of our time. This isn’t a fault and it’s nothing to feel guilty over but most of us will always wonder what would have happened if we had just taken the one massive risk to try and attain our dreams. The Alchemist is about the pursuit of dreams, a personal legend. Everyone has one and we all know what it is when we’re a child but we lose it as we age but we never forget the desire for it.  When someone is pursuing their personal legend, the universe will come to together to assist anyone that is in pursuit of their personal legend.

The story follows a young shepard boy named Santiago. who after having a reoccurring dream, in which he believes to be prophetic, consults a fortune teller. He is told that he will find treasure in Egypt. Soon afterwards he is visited by an old king called Melchizedek, who encourages Santiago to pursue the dream. The boy, through out his journey is met with several points in which he could have turned away from his personal legend, decisions that would have made him happy in the interim but would have still left him empty and full of yearning in his later years. The writing itself mimics a piece of philosophical or religious text and God is often brought up in the book. While the style worked, I cannot deny that, I didn’t always enjoy its preachy style.

This novel spoke to me not only because I am in the process of the pursuing my own personal legend but the book is also a reflection of the authors own experience of  becoming a writer so I felt that I could relate to the author’s own sacrifices as reflected through Santiago. What I also took from the book is the importance of ensuring that you don’t give up your dreams for anyone. Santiago meets two women on his journey, both which tempt him to settle and marry but it’s the second woman Fatima, who won’t be with him until he has pursued his personal legend. A loved one should support your dreams, not stop them.

I can see that this book may not speak to everyone just based on the way it’s written, but for those that it does, I think it’s important not to ignore its message. We have a set amount of time on this earth and we do have choice with how we spend it. It’s never too late to follow a dream. Anything worth having is going to have sacrifice, and often a lot of it but as this book shows, it’s the journey towards the dream that’s relevant and that’s what makes the rewards of success that much sweeter.

 

50 Followers Contest – Runtastic!

Readers and lurkers alike, thanks to you I now have 50 followers! In celebration of this feat I’m having a contest. I recently reviewed Runtastic‘s new activity tracker, the Orbit, on DailyXY and they’ve graciously provided me with a bunch of promo codes for some of their wicked apps!

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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4/5 stars.
Paperback, 181 pages.
Read from October 08 to 09, 2014.

Gaiman, we meet again! It has been just over two years since I read anything by this fantastic author so I was quite happy when TNBBC picked this one for their Halloween read this month. A what a suiting pick it was…

This book is dark and has the capabilities of making your skin crawl, it is however also whimsical. Just like childhood. There is only one other person that I can think of that writes about childhood this well and that’s Roald Dahl. Both Gaiman and Dahl seem to be able to recall so well what it’s like to be a child, including the dark side of it. Growing up is scary and it’s hard but it’s also wonderful. While Dahl is no longer with us, I’m thankful that there are authors like Gaiman around that can still make us feel like children.

After returning to his childhood home after attending a funeral, the unnamed protagonist recalls the time he use to spend with his neighbour and childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock. He ventures over to his old neighbours and finds Lettie’s mother and recalls that Lettie has gone away to “Australia”.  The protagonist initially remembers very little of his childhood but recalls a pond which Lettie used to say was her ocean and decides to venture down there to recollect some childhood memories. Sitting by the “pond” the man begins to remembers , it started with him losing his room as a boy so that his parents could let it out for some additional income. The opal miner had stayed with them, but after losing all the money that his friends and family gave him to gambling, he stole the family car and committing suicide in it. This death causes something unnatural to be released in to the world. While out with his father to retrieve the car, is when he meets Lettie. He is taken back to her home and introduced to her mother and grandmother.

The unnatural spirit that was released when the opal miner died believes that money will make people happy but it’s leaving money for people in very horrible ways. When the narrator wakes up choking on a coin, he seeks help from Lettie. The boy quickly comes to realize that there is something very special about the Hempstock women and when he asks about their exact age they never give him a concise answer. The women decide that the spirit must be dealt with and brought back to its own world. Against her mother and grandmother’s discretion, Lettie convinces them to let her bring the young protagonist along with her to banish the spirit. Lettie tells the boy that he must not touch ANYTHING while he is in the spirit world and to hold her hand the entire time. The boy fails at this only once while in the surreal spirit world.

After the spirit has been banished, the boy returns home from his adventure believing that everything has returned to normal. He finds however, that he has a gaping black hole in the bottom of his foot in which he can feel something moving around. He pulls out a worm from the hole in his foot and puts it down a drain, though he didn’t get all of it. The boy deals with the incident the way a curious child would, but as a reader this scene is has some serious gross factors and leaves you reeling!

The morning after removing the worm, the boy’s parent’s introduce him to Ursula, their new nanny. Everyone seems to love Ursula, except for the boy. He knows something is not quite right with her. She won over his sister with treats and adoration and his father with too much adoration (complete with some scenes no young boy should ever have to witness his parent doing) all while his mother becomes less present in the home and this is when is nightmare starts to begin…

Sounds unnerving and awesome right?! It really is. Gaiman never lets you down. Gaiman, like in many of his other novels, likes to have mythological connections to his stories because in a way, it keeps them all connected. For example, Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother sound like the triple goddess of mythology: the maiden, the mother and the crone. Equally, Ursula seems to represent the whore. The whole novel seems to revolve around similar dichotomies, such as childhood and adulthood as well as what we perceive as real and what we imagine.

Another interesting item that’s worth noting, just off some quick research, apparently some of the incidents in the book are in relation to some experiences that Gaiman had as a child, for example Gaiman’s father’s car was actually stolen and the thief did commit suicide in it.

This novel is less than 200 pages so it makes for nice quick read and I think you’ll find yourself being properly creeped out and just in time for Halloween. You may even find yourself recollecting on your own wacky childhood adventures. A must-read for any adult that still has a child-like spirit.