15 February 2016

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho - Book Review

The Witch of Portobello is one of the best books I read by Coelho along with Brida and The Alchemist. What I love about it, which is a rather frequent element in his books, is its smooth and clear style, even if very conceptual, and the fact that there is a female protagonist who evolves throughout the story and whose change affects other people around her.

The book is about the life of Sherine Khalil, or Athena, as she likes to be called, a gipsy girl who was adopted at a young age and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, and who moved to London where she had a son and started embracing an entirely new lifestyle. However, Athena's life events aren't what matters in the book: it is her presence, her character and connection to the Divine and other humans that the story focuses on. Athena's story is never told from her point of view but that of an anonymous character who interviews various people who were in contact with her in her life. All characters are startled, scared and intrigued by her unusual and esoteric attitudes and practices, such as her free dancing over loud music.

The process of building up Athena's character is what makes her so interesting and different from the characters we are used to know through a quick description by the main narrator. The controversial points of view of the characters put everything in a different perspective, so strong that it involves the reader as well.

What I mostly liked about the book is the unknown behind Athena's search and practices; I kept reading, eager to understand it, but her quest is so abstract, deep and complex like life itself that the only way to comprehend it is to observe life and grow wisdom with time. I sound so deep haha, but the truth is that Coelho's books are simple reflections on life and the only way to understand them is this: living and reflecting over your actions.

I read The Witch of Portobello almost all in one go and gave it five stars on Goodreads. It might not be for everyone, but I think it is truly an amazing book.

My edition: Paulo Coelho, 2006. The Witch of Portobello. London: Harper Collins. Pages: 296. I bought this book at only 3 euros at Paperback Exchange (best bookshop for used books in English in Florence) and it was in great shape. It's a big book so a bit heavy but I loved the layout and font.

Goodreads: 5/5.

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  1. I've heard many great things about this book! (are they making it into a movie soon? Maybe I'm getting mixed up).

    -Lor //

    1. It is truly amazing. If you like spiritual books then you'll love this. I'm not sure if they're making a movie out of it, but I found a trailer on YouTube so it might be :)