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October 17, 2012 / Amy Bradney-George

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

When I was maybe 12 years old I picked up a book from my Mum’s bookshelf that had always intrigued me. It had a purple cover, an interesting image of a person drawn on it and was called The Alchemist. Mum suggested I read it, saying it was a profound book that she would always treasure.

The cover that compelled me to pick up The Alchemist all those years ago.

Curious about what could make such a small book so life-changing, I opened it and started reading. I don’t remember much of that first time I was taken along on the Andalusian shepherd Santiago’s journey, but I do remember the overwhelming inspiration I felt when I turned the last page and took it back to Mum’s room.

There have been a few chapters in my life since then, and several times Mum’s suggested I read it again for some direction, insights or inspiration. Each time I dismissed the idea, but Paulo Coelho has stayed among the writers I turn to when I want a book that helps me appreciate storytelling and the world around me.

This year I’ve read a lot of his books, so it seemed natural to go back to the one that started it all. As soon as I started The Alchemist again, I knew I would be reading it with different eyes. It’s been around a decade, after all.

Santiago’s dream leads him along a different path to the one he set out on. It takes him away from his home and the familiar countryside to new places. He faces the toughest decisions of his life, challenges complacency and finds true love before his dreams are ever realised.

The messages in this book about following your own path (or Personal Legend) held so much relevance for me this time. The idea that your faith is strongest in moments of doubt and that the hardest times are there to make the goal mean more jumped off the pages.

Even my beliefs that were formed overseas and led me to train in the Meisner acting technique (now a constant source of inspiration in my life) were reinforced. I’m probably paraphrasing, but the concept of “living in the moment” was mentioned several times along Santiago’s journey.

It’s a small book, but re-reading it made me realise just how much can come from less than 200 pages of text. This is a book that millions of people have read and been inspired by, and I love the fact that we all have a different way of reading into the story. I think you could read The Alchemist a hundred times over and get something new out of it every time. That’s the beauty of it.

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