Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, has been awarded France's Legion d'Honneur, Italy's Grinzane Cavour and was inducted into the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 2002. "The Alchemist" is invariably blurbed as "much loved" and was first published in 1988.
"The Alchemist" tells the story of Santiago, a native of Andalusia. He had trained, briefly, for the priesthood though had always been keen to travel. As a result, he left the seminary and - since the only Andalusians who travelled were shepherds - bought some sheep. As the story begins, he has just arrived - aptly enooough - at an abandoned church where he is planning to shelter for the night. That night, for the second time in about a week, he dreams of being taken to the Pyramids by a girl. There, she promises him a hidden treasuer if he comes to the Pyramids when awake. Although he has his dream interpreted in a nearby town, he only decides to follow his dream following a conversation with a man who calims to be the King of Salem.
"The Alchemist" is a very short, pleasant, easily-read book and has a message I'd really love to believe : everyone has a single goal in life (even if we don't realise it) and that the Earth itself wants us to be happy. Maybe I've just become too cynical over the yeras, but I couldn't honestly describe it as anything other then fluff - very likeable fluff, admittedly, though still fluff. Coelho himself has become an alchemist of sorts with this book, though he hasn't needed to turn lead into gold : he's made his fortune telling people to chase their dreams and to follow the right omens.