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Review: The Alchemist – A Graphic Novel

by Kim on December 14, 2010 · 21 comments

Post image for Review: The Alchemist – A Graphic Novel

Title: The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel
Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Graphic Novel
Year: 2010
Acquired: From the publish for a TLC Book Tour
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

One Sentence Summary: A shepherd boy travels to Egypt to look for treasure under the pyramids, but ends up finding his own personal treasure.

One Sentence Review: The graphic novel doesn’t seem to match illustrations with story style, leaving the whole thing feeling just a little bit off.

Why I Read It: I’ve never read The Alchemist, so I thought trying a graphic novel of the book would be fun.

Long Review: The Alchemist is novel originally written in Portuguese about a shepherd boy named Santiago who has a dream he will find treasure under the pyramids. Along the way to finding this treasure, he meets a gypsy woman, a man who claims to be a king, and an alchemist, who help Santiago find his destiny. The king repeatedly tells Santiago, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and that it pays to follow your dreams, however unlikely they may seem.

I think I should start this review with a note that I haven’t actually read all of the novel The Alchemist which this graphic novel is based on. I checked the novel out from the library to read, but only read about 100 pages before deciding the book wasn’t quite for me. It was just too… New Age-y? I’m an optimist, but I just found the story and message not that absorbing, which is probably very much do to with me and almost nothing to do with the book.

That said, I was still optimistic about reading the graphic novel — it felt like the novel (which I think is technically a parable — “a succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a lesson”) could adapt really well to an illustrated format, if the illustrations could really enhance some of the imagery from the book that I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, I felt a pretty big disconnect between the story and the images in the graphic novel, which made the adaptation also a bit disappointing. It felt like the drawing style didn’t fit with the style of the story, which was sort of fantastical, image-heavy, and full of symbolism. I expected the images to be similarly lush, like the beautiful cover image.

However, the images in this adaptation are very “comic book.” That’s actually not a very helpful distinction; I guess what I mean is that they look traditional, very much like how I’ve seen classic super hero comics illustrated. The illustrations didn’t add much to the story or make me think about the book in a different way, they were just sort of there.

Additionally, the illustrations included a big pet peeve of mine: women in comics with tiny waists and giant chests wearing skimpy clothing. I don’t get why that was there — it didn’t really add anything to the book, and just made the few women in the story into sex objects for no reason. I didn’t get a chance to scan in an image, so you’ll just have to trust me.

This a pretty lame review, but I think that’s because the graphic novel left me feeling pretty “meh.” Since the original version of The Alchemist didn’t really work for me, and I didn’t think the addition of illustrations enhanced it much, the graphic novel just fell flat. I do think people familiar with and a fan of The Alchemist might enjoy checking this one out , but it just wasn’t quite for me.

Other Reviews: One Book Shy | The Zen Leaf | There’s a Book | The Brain Lair | Colloquium | Wise Owl Book Review |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda December 14, 2010 at 7:31 am

I was a fan of the novel, so I liked seeing an illustrated version of it, but I didn’t care of the art either. I felt like i was just revisiting the book, and that the art was negligible. If I hadn’t been a fan of the novel already, I doubt I would have gotten much out of this one.

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Kim December 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Amanda: I think the graphic novel will be fun for people who’ve read the book, the same way I think it’s fun to see film or tv adaptations of books I liked. But like you say, the art didn’t add much to the book, which is too bad.

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Man of la Book December 14, 2010 at 8:35 am

I never read the novel but it’s on my short list. As a comic fan I was excited about the graphic novel interpretations but to be honest I’ve seen very few that actually work (notable exceptions are the classic comics from the 50′s).

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

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Kim December 14, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Man of la Book: It’s tough to do adaptations. I like re-imaginings better than adaptations, just because there’s no expectation things will be just the same — the license to be different really helps.

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bermudaonion (Kathy) December 14, 2010 at 12:37 pm

This is probably not for me.

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Kim December 14, 2010 at 7:34 pm

bermudaonion: Maybe not :)

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Stephanie December 14, 2010 at 6:02 pm

This looks very promising, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t really work for me either. Thanks for the honest review.

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Kim December 14, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Stephanie: I hate writing reviews for books I don’t care for, but of course that’s part of “the job” :) You’re right though – the important thing is to be honest about it/

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Savvy working Gal December 14, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I read this novel a few years ago after reading a magazine article recommending it as a life changing book. I too found it to be a huge disappointment and too New Age-y. I’ve read quite a few books this past year about women and body image, so another graphic novel illustrating women with tiny waists and giant chests wearing skimpy clothing is discouraging. No wonder beautiful 5 year old girls come home crying because they think they’re ugly.

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Kim December 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Savvy Working Gal: I think the depiction of women was a problem in the book – I just don’t understand the decision on that one. I think it put a bad taste in my mouth even before I got very far into the graphic novel.

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Trisha December 15, 2010 at 8:14 am

Even without ever reading The Alchemist, I can see how those images don’t jive with the tone of the original novel. Strange artistic decision.

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Kim December 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Trisha: I agree – I was expecting something very different, less traditional comic like, given the style of the story.

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Erin December 15, 2010 at 9:21 pm

I don’t think I would like the graphic adaptation of The Alchemist. I’m with you — the story and pictures don’t match. I did like the novel when I read it, but that was years ago and I hardly remember it, so I’m not sure what I’d think now!

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Kim December 16, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Erin: I do think it’d be an interesting comparison if you’d read the book awhile ago, just to see

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Esme December 15, 2010 at 10:21 pm

This is one of my favorite books-I am not new agey at all and this is not usually my genre-but I loved this. I am not sure if I would like the graphic version.

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Kim December 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Esme: To each her own :) I’ve read mixed reviews of the graphic version from people more familiar and more into the book that I was, so who knows.

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Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours December 17, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I’m sorry this one didn’t meet your expectations, but thanks for being a part of the tour!

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Kim December 19, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Heather: Me too, but no worries. It’s fun to try all sorts of different books, even ones that aren’t quite what we wanted.

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Tim P January 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Sorry to be THAT guy, but the original work is actually Brazilian, not Portuguese.

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Kim January 26, 2011 at 7:05 am

Tim: I know Coelho is Brazilian, but I thought the book was first published in Portuguese? In any case, I wasn’t clear about that in the post. Thanks for pointing it out, and I’ll clarify.

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