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Book Review: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

As the eighth book in my reading order, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo made for an interesting three days. While I primarily read it on my train ride to work, it was incredibly light to carry and a breezy read. The story was simple to follow, and it didn’t have many characters or storylines to confuse the reader. Which is funny because the protagonist in the book says the exact same thing, that if he ever wrote a book, he would a few characters so the book wouldn’t be hard to read.

The prevailing expression related to this book is that it is a modern fable. And I didn’t know what that meant. What could an older person fable consist of? What would it talk about that they don’t already know? How would it be any different from the millions of self-help books that they have tried to read? ‘Modern Fable’ can be constituted as the general description for the book because now I agree with it.

It is the story of a young Spanish boy, Santiago who sees a recurring dream of a treasure under the Egyptian pyramids. So he sets forth from his life of shepherding to try and obtain that treasure. He meets an Old King on the way who gives Santiago two magic beans for his path ahead. Santiago also meets the love of his life on the way to the pyramids and learns alchemy. He takes up small, diverse jobs to earn enough money to reach Egypt and then the pyramids. Meeting all sorts of people on his journey, learning from their experiences and developing his own deep thoughts and conclusions.

An Alchemist would be someone who creates an object through a seemingly magical process. The most common example would be to create gold from any metal you hold and that’s what draws a lot of people to the art of alchemy. While what we learn through the book is that the story of Santiago is just the backbone of the flesh of human existence, and a metaphor for explaining our purpose in life.

The book is filled with thought-provoking questions, little reminders that life is short and we must march towards our goal all the time. Or at least work in the direction of our goal. Paulo Coelho incorporates the old wisdom into different scenes and includes the burning questions as thoughts that Santiago would have. Also, he addresses them heads on in a way that you could pick up clues as to how that applies to YOU. Which is a very big deal because millions have read this book and resonate with the ideas that it proposes.

It is as much difficult to explain in words how the book is, as it is to explain the meaning of life. But I can tell you this much that you will not regret reading this book. It is easy to read, interesting and will be on your mind all the time.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Complexity Rating: 3 out of 5

General Pace of the book: 3 out of 5

Life Recommendations: Immense!

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Celebrated Classics Book Review: Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte wrote the novel Jane Eyre under a male pen name, and let the book have its recognition for all the right reasons before the big reveal. Back in those days, women writers were looked down upon and any piece of writing would have been judged with those eyes before even looking at the content of the book.

Jane Eyre is an orphan who lives with her maternal uncle and aunt. Her cousins and aunt are very rude and impolite with her, and when her uncle dies, she is sent off to Lowood school for orphan children. With the past of being notorious, Jane is imprinted with that image for the first few years of school, after which people start to recognize her as a smart, hardworking and sincere girl. Later, she starts to teach at the very same school for two years and then accepts the job of a governess to a little girl at Thornfield manor- the only reply to her newspaper advertisement.

She is happy with her pupil, Adele, and the housekeeper. One day, she meets a stranger on the road, who turns out to be her master, Edward Rochester. She gets to talk to Mr. Rochester on topics of the heart and the world and both are impressed with the knowledge of company of the other. Even though there is an age gap, they start to fall in love. But the presence of another prospective lady for Mr. Rochester sends Jane away to her ill aunt. And with a few more turns, the story of Rochester and Jane find an ending.

In this book, we can clearly see the conflict between love and independence, passion and conscience, and the struggle of a young girl and woman to maintain her self-esteem. It is truly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It is not like the other romantic Victorian love stories that end up in the same way. Jane’s character has her own life, is strong, independent and knows how to think for itself, without causing harm to others.

Throughout her life, Charlotte Bronte preached and practiced tolerance rather than revolution. She had high moral principles. Although she was shy in public, she was always prepared to argue her beliefs. All of these traits come through in Jane Eyre. She is a masterful creator of stories and characters that grip you from the very beginning. You root for them and feel drawn to the charisma of the English world.

Classification: Hybrid- the Gothic novel, he romance novel, and the Bildungsroman (narrates the story of a character’s internal development as he or she undergoes a succession of encounters with the external world)

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Suspense Rating: 4 out of 5

Complexity Rating: 4 out of 5

General Pace of the book: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Must read!

Wuthering Heights Book Review

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is the epitome of the English classic novel. It has the perfect mix of love, suspense, thrill, and mystery. The characters unfold slowly, but are complete in themselves and fit into the plot. The life of the 19th century can be ascertained by how the children grow up, the thought-processes and the kind of living and transportation modes. In this review of Wuthering Heights, I will highlight a little bit of the story and tell you why I quite liked the book.

The story begins when a Mr. Lockwood comes to rent the house, Thrushcross Grange and encounters the spirit of old Catherine. The old housemaid, Nelly Dean starts to recount the old stories which form the major part of the novel. How the estate came to be owned by Heathcliff, who was brought home from the roads one day. How Heathcliff and Miss Catherine became such good friends and then fell in love. How they were not allowed to be married. And what spurned the angst of Heathcliff and how he came to own a lot of the estate by brains and means. She also explained that since Heathcliff genuinely loved Catherine, her spirit wandered looking for him. Their children, then, meet each other and how the story progresses is very different, anticlimactic and yet a great read. Because the events are realistic, and naturally unfold. The story wraps up everything neatly and has a happy ending which is all you can ask for.

Bronte’s writing is so good, that you never want to put down the book. Once you get over the old English writing style, you end up wanting more. I read Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice after this because I couldn’t get enough of the charm of the old English courting and portrayal of romance. Wuthering Heights is a book with a mass appeal, the perfect hint of mystery and lots of doleful, lovely moments. Some noteworthy sentences make it a keeper. A definite good read for me. It is also not a very long, which increases its appeal.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Suspense Rating: 5 out of 5

Complexity Rating: 5 out of 5

General Pace of the book: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Grab a copy soon!

EDIT: Lauren, a fellow blogger commented to tell me that Heights is a Gothic novel rather than a Victorian one, as a previous version of this post mentioned. I have made the correction and understand the distinction!

 

Revenge Wears Prada: Very Candid Book Review

Contains spoilers. Reader discretion!

The review is kind of equivalent to the book summary.

I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do this review. But, here I am for the sake of a few hundred people reading right now. I was really excited to have picked up this book at my city’s book fair for a very reasonable price. Had I known the book would be so disappointing, I wouldn’t have paid even that much. I had read The Devil Wears Prada, and watched the movie more than 20 times. Which is why I couldn’t wait to know how Andy’s story progresses. Continue reading “Revenge Wears Prada: Very Candid Book Review”

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea

This Hemingway book is considered a classic fable, because of its hallmark pains and gains story. It revolves around an aged sailor, Santiago. After going 84 days without hooking a decent fish, he sails far out and hooks a 18-foot long swordfish. The battle begins then, and the fish drags the small boat and Santiago far out to sea. For two days this continues, and Santiago wins that battle, but eventually loses the great fish on the way home to the scavenger sharks who find him easy prey. He returns home, and his young apprentice brings him coffee and the football scores that Santiago loves so much and promises to sail with him always.

The Old Man and the Sea is a magnificent story. On one side, it is the tale of a man and a fish, and yet, it is a story of man versus nature, AND, the story of the culture of manhood, courage, bravery in the face of existence. Continue reading “Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea”

Book Review: Animal Farm, by George Orwell

Why Animal Farm can potentially be your favorite book too!

Animal Farm is a very short, very interesting book from the get-go. In the 97 pages of its quirky story, you will clamor to read more and more until the last page. And you live for the last line of the book. It is probably why the book was written in such a manner. Very rarely will books give you a concrete conclusion about what it is trying to say, than what George Orwell does in the ending for this one of his masterpieces.

In the story, the animals on the Manor Farm lead a life of utmost difficulty. They are made to work a lot, and given meager food, just to keep them alive. So, one day, the Old Major, an old pig tells all the other animals about a dream where animals live free of the tyranny of their masters and teaches them the song, “Beasts of  England” which goes on to become their anthem when they are led to rebellion. Continue reading “Book Review: Animal Farm, by George Orwell”

Is 1984, by George Orwell really worth the hype?

Amazon does this curious thing now, where they recommend you books based on the previous ones you’ve bought. It is akin to user personal data tracking, but you can’t do anything about it. All I can tell you is either their algorithm is flawed that it recommended for me a political satire. Or it is so perfectly advanced, that it knew I would be moved by reading 1984 and Animal Farm, both by the English author George Orwell.

When I started reading 1984, I was free of any prejudices, which is why I believe it works for everyone. The book was written in 1949, and tells how the world would look like in the year 1984, when the government would have autonomy over your life, the market, the economy, the food you ate, the activities you did and who were your friends. ‘Big Brother‘ would always be watching and listening through the telescreen which could also transmit signals about the person in whose house it was installed. Continue reading “Is 1984, by George Orwell really worth the hype?”

Honest Book Review: The Hypnotist, by Lars Kepler

My reading habit had been in a decline ever since the higher classes of school. And it only got worse in college, because whatever free time I had, I never committed to book reading. I didn’t stop hoarding books, although I never read them. So, I had a bookcase full of books waiting to be opened. Which is why, in a moment of wisdom, I had promised myself that I would read at least 12 books for the 12 months of 2017. And I have never been happier. Because this is a goal I can easily achieve and I have been very good so far.

I started out my re-reading phase with the fairly concise The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (which I will review next week). And second on my list was The Hypnotist. It is a suspense novel by Swedish author Lars Kepler. In my opinion, it is a pretty perfect murder mystery that plays on your mind just as much as a psychopath with its victim. Which isn’t a bad example because our story involves a deranged killer who needs to be sorted through. But because he is so badly injured, he needs a Hypnotist to help me out of his post-traumatic state. The investigator in-charge, Joona Linna is convinced that the hospitalised boy killed his family in cold-blood. But he doesn’t have proof yet. And the hypnotist, Erik Maria Bark had promised years ago that he wouldn’t hypnotise people. And the sister of the murderer is still out somewhere Continue reading “Honest Book Review: The Hypnotist, by Lars Kepler”

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