Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review: The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel by Paulo Coelho is a graphic adaptation of the bestselling novel by the same name (adapted by Derek Ruiz with artwork by Daniel Sampere and others). It’s the story of Santiago, a young shepherd from Andalusia, Spain, who has a dream about a treasure buried near the pyramids of Egypt.

Several people recommended The Alchemist (in its original incarnation) to me, and I tried reading it but couldn’t get past the first few pages. When I saw that a graphic adaptation of the novel was going to be touring with TLC Book Tours, I jumped at the change to give this story another try. And I’m glad I did: the story is clever and engaging. I had just finished reading The Wisdom to Know the Difference by Eileen Flanagan (read my review), in which she talks about how we each have a purpose or calling, so this story about following your “personal legend,” as Coelho calls it, resonated with me—I read it all in one sitting (and then read it again).

However, there is also much about the book that bothered me. I suspect that some of the elements that I found confusing are probably explained more clearly in the original novel. For example, Narcissus’s story in the prologue didn’t make much sense to me (I didn’t see what it had to do with the rest of the story), nor did I see the purpose in including the page in which Santiago fantasizes about killing his sheep. I also found the section when Santiago is travelling with the Englishman to be very disjointed—the first time I read it, I thought the publisher must have made a mistake and left out several panels!

Some of my other issues had more to do with the graphic adaptation itself: I disliked the drawings of the female characters, who were either scantily clad buxom babes or (in one case) looked like a man in drag. In addition, near the end of the book, some of the text in the word bubbles is much smaller than the rest, which gave me the impression the character in question was whispering, which I don’t think was the case.

However, I also had problems with the story itself. I disliked some of the supernatural/magical elements of the tale—unfortunately, I can’t tell you more without giving some of the story away. But the biggest problem I had with the book was its sexism: Santiago needs to go out and follow his personal legend to its conclusion but Fatima finds her treasure in a man.

Overall, I’m glad I read the book, but given my reservations about it, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. And I can’t said that reading it has made me want to read the original novel!

The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel was on blog tour with TLC Book Tours in November and December. Visit these other blogs for reviews:

One Book Shy of a Full ShelfThe Zen LeafThere’s a BookThe Brain LairColloquiumWise Owl Book ReviewsSophisticated DorkinessJenn’s BookshelvesIn the Next RoomLove, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanitynomadreader

Other reviews: Broken FrontierThe Books in My Life

Read an excerpt from the book: Graphic Novel Reporter


  1. My daughter read the novel and complained about the sexism in it and gave me a few examples. As a result, The Alchemist is not a book I'm interested in reading. What I really can't understand is why so many women enjoy it. To each her own, though.

  2. I thought there were a couple places in this adaptation that strayed from the original story, and I can definitely see why it'd be confusing, especially all the parables at the beginning. I enjoyed the novel okay, but I went into it thinking I'd hate it, so I think it all has to do with expectations...

  3. I think I read the original book ages ago. My daughter read it for school awhile back and didn't enjoy it. Since graphic novels aren't really my cup of tea, I think I'll give this a pass.

  4. I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be a good fit for you, but thanks for being a part of the tour!

  5. This is my son's all time fave book. I don't know if I'd order the graphic novel though. I might get him his own copy since the library keeps calling for the old one back.

    Thanks for an honest review on this one.