Paulo Coelho is a popular, well-respected and award-winning author. After reading this book, I am not sure why. This will be a short review.
This is my first encounter with Coelho’s work, so maybe this is not his best effort to judge him by. Reviews for this book seem to vary widely, with people either reporting a deep inspiration by the writing or like me, annoyed at the “deepities” – things that at first sound deep but upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be something closer to Jack Handey’s “Deep Thoughts”. Your mileage may vary, you might be one of those who love the book.
The story opens with an unnamed visitor asking a young boy about the whereabouts of the archery master known as Tetsuya. The boy knows Tetsuya, but as a carpenter, not an archery master. The boy takes the man to see Tetsuya, and the visitor challenges Tetsuya to a test of archery skill. The visitor fancies himself an archery master as well, and if Tetsuya wins the visitor’s challenge, the visitor promises to leave. Tetsuya wins and the visitor leaves, but now the boy knows Tetsuya’s secret. To buy his silence, Tetsuya offers to teach the boy about archery. The rest of the story is about the lessons.
Imagine The Karate Kid without character development and without a plot – just repeated “wax on, wax off” lessons, and Mr. Miyagi working on carpentry instead of his bonsai tree. Like the Karate Kid, all of life’s lessons can be taught through the discipline of archery. Character development and a plot would have helped.
Luckily, it only takes about half an hour to read.
Coelho is a Brazilian who speaks Portuguese. The flow of the writing is anything but smooth, and it leads me to believe it was translated – amateurishly in parts – from an original Portuguese manuscript. It may be much more pleasing to read in the original language.
Published in 2008, this book is available in the Public Domain. Paulo Coelho supports the free online distribution of his work.
You can download Paulo Coelho’s The Way of the Bow from Feedbooks.
Oh, and by the way, that IS Coelho pictured in the photograph above. He does know a thing or two about archery.