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The Book of the Alchemist [Hardcover]

Adam Williams
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 18.09 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

26 Nov 2009

Eleventh-century Andaluz. While Europe slumbers in the dark ages, Southern Spain is a beacon of enlightenment that draws artists, scientists and philosophers of all faiths. In this haven of tolerance, three boys meet by chance under a fig tree on a hot summer's day. An alchemist, a mason and a prince, they establish a secret brotherhood that will construct a great monument to astonish the world.

Andalucia, 1938. The Spanish Civil War is struggling to a close. A group of desperate Republican solders have kidnapped a former government minister and his grandson, and are holding hostages in a cathedral. They intend to sacrifice themselves and everyone else for their cause, in a final act of wanton death and destruction.

The discovery of an ancient book in a hidden space beneath the cathedral means nothing to the Republican soldiers. But to the hostages, the secrets it contains could offer their only escape.

Connecting two ideologically-torn worlds a thousand years apart, Adam Williams's new novel is another masterful adventure and a moving portrayal of love and friendship.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (26 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340899131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340899137
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 592,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


The perfect book for curling up with at the weekend (SHE)

A terrific yarn and a moving portrait of the power of love and friendship (Good Book Guide)

A thousand years go by in a flash as Williams spins a yarn uniting childhood camaraderie in the 11th century with the violence of the 20th-century civil war. Prepare to be captivated (Stylist)

Rewarding novel of love and friendship connecting worlds a thousand years apart (Sun)

An epic historical and romantic story as well as an impressive first novel. (Sunday Mirror on THE PALACE OF HEAVENLY PLEASURE)

'This book is poetic and romantic in parts, harrowing and tragic in others' **** (Heat on THE EMPEROR'S BONES)

A rattling good read. Full of love and loss and guts and gore and derring-do, this is as good as an adventure story gets . . . Williams is a master (The Times on THE PALACE OF HEAVENLY PLEASURE)

A blockbuster with a difference (Daily Mail on THE PALACE OF HEAVENLY PLEASURE)

Book Description

A perfect holiday read for those who want to immerse themselves in adventure, Spanish history and romance.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner 5 Dec 2009
I liked Adam William's trilogy on China so I picked up The Book of the Alchemist with some expectations of a good story. But this one really grabbed me, as if a hand reached out of the book and pulled me right in.

What would you call a book about politics and religion, about tolerance and intolerance, about love across religious and social barriers? What would you call an architect who builds a cathedral on top of a hidden mosque? What would you call a novel full of hidden passages, hidden loves, deception, betrayal, war, redemption -- good heaven's I call it just a fabulous story!

The parallels between the Christian "suicide bombers" of medieval Spain and the Islamic movements we are dealing with today are eerie and pertinent. But frankly, I didn't think about that much, I was too busy wanting to find out what would happen to the characters in the two interlinked tales.

Frankly, this novel helped me with my Christmas shopping as I sent it to the readers on my gift list. I can't wait to hear their reactions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars learn as you turn! 12 Dec 2009
The English had their civil war in the 17th Century, the French in the 18th, but the Spanish never had theirs until the 1930s. And when it came, was it vicious! Adam Williams not only gives a sharp sense of the period but also indirectly shows why the Spanish Civil War came so late: a direct legacy of the unmitigated intolerance of medieval Spanish Catholicism, especially towards Jews and Muslims.

The Book of the Alchemist is at once a tale of knife-edged excitement and a portrayal of the historical tensions within Spain during two of its most traumatic periods. Williams has not only produced a genuine page-turner, but also provides scholarly reflection on the doctrinal and philosophical issues of the time in each of the three great Semitic religions.

At the heart of the novel are three boyhood friends: a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim. Inevitably their carefree days of youth are torn apart by the political and cultural conflicts of the times. But one of them is truly an alchemist, and his legacy is a book that leads to a wonderful and magical discovery from an age when sacred art was a genuine opening to the beautiful, the good and the true.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars entertainment and erudition 10 Dec 2009
If you're looking for gripping entertainment about adventures in 12th century Al-Andalus and the Spanish Civil War, or deep erudition on two fascinating periods of history that have important lessons for our own times-riven by islamic fundamentalism spilling over into civil wars - you can't do better than Adam Williams's latest book.As in his previous trilogy on 20th century China, here Adam Williams creates extravagant but totally believable characters who vividly engage us with their tortuous lives without ever losing the thread or the suspense.I bought it because I had enjoyed the trilogy-if you are new to Adam Williams I cannot recommend this enough-it's a thinking person's page-turner .
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a captivating read 20 Dec 2009
A friend told me about the book she was reading over the phone. The conversation kept on coming back to the book despite my efforts to veer it towards New Year Eve's plans. Her evident obsession (not to mention a perhaps needed plan B for December 31st) let me to buy The Book of the Alchemist. How can I describe it: an enchanting tale, a gripping war story, a breath taking mystery, an acute and heart wrenching discussion on religion and fanaticism, a love and friendhip story? This book is all of this and more. Lyrical at times, funny, scholarly, the writer's prose is a continuous enchantment. The story is woven between two tales: 11th century Moorish Spain and the last year of the Spanish Civil war - and one cannot wait to leave one to get back to the other. If only all historical novels could be this gripping and true to historical facts! One finishes the book hoping that the story of friendship between three boys of different faiths could be a real story and that their strife for enlightenment would not be fiction... and waiting for Williams' next book!
A warning is necessary though: start the book at your own peril - you will not be able to put it down until you have read the last sentence.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent but entertaining 26 Nov 2009
By C. Rees
This is not a Chinese setting, like the author's previous books, but in moving to Spain he has written an intelligent, interesting, exciting and entertaining story. You learn about medieval philosophy as well as history while you read, and joining it with the Spanish civil war is unexpected but clever - there are all sorts of echoes in each storyline, and even with today...
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