The Witch of Portobello : A Must Read

I was tempted to put this as a blog post along with AC where I have just posted it, just to get more viewership. It is a book I recommend to all.

This is also my NaBloPoMo post.

The Witch of Portobello

The Witch of Portobello

My introduction to Paulo Coelho came from a friend who is a Pranic Healer. I was unwell and had nothing much to do than rest. Someone got me the books I had listed and I immersed myself in them. I read The Alchemist and The Zahir and liked them.

On one rainy day I Picked up The Witch of Portobello and read the back cover.

“How do we find the courage to always be true to ourselves—even if we are unsure of whom we are?”

I knew it was going to be a long association with the writer and the book.

There is something magical about this book. I wonder if it was my interest in witches or something about the cover and the design of the book that made me pick it up.

The rain clouds were thundering outside and I began to read, tucked in the warmth of the blanket. It touched me somewhere deep, this story of a young woman named Athena, a gypsy by birth who is adopted by a wealthy Lebanese couple who flee from Beirut to UK. Portobello is a street in London where Athena or Sherine Khalil holds her worship meeting.

I began to associate with the main character and many a times stopped to ponder how similar some thoughts can be. It stirred me to the core of my heart and it was in the wee hours of the morning that I read the last line, still unable to keep the book. I stared at it for long time as if bewitched by Athena. Such is the power of this excellent book by Paulo Coelho.

There are phrases and lines in the book that you would like to mark for life. I did.

It is a biographical account of a mysterious woman called Athena, depicted through a series of narrations by individuals who directly interacted with her such as a journalist, an actress, a doctor turned witch, a numerologist, Athena’s adoptive mother, her ex-husband, a Catholic priest, a Polish neighbor, a bank manager, a Bedouin, a restaurant owner, Athena’s birth mother, a French historian They either knew her very well or at least thought they did.

“People create a reality and then become the victims of that reality. Athena rebelled against that—and paid a high price.” —Heron Ryan, journalist in The Witch of Portobello

The first person perspective helps the reader to connect with each one of them and that sure seems the purpose of the author and one can also chronologically follow Athena’s life.

Many people have not liked it as much as other Coelho books but for me this is a pilgrimage of soul, an inner journey into the hidden power of our life infused with philosophy, religious miracles, love, fear of loss .

It is a story of her spiritual quest, her constant urge to fill the empty spaces in her life, her efforts to connect to her spiritual side through music and dance.

Excerpt from the book

“I learned calligraphy while I was in Dubai. I dance whenever I can, but music only exhausts because the pauses exist, and sentences only exist because the blank spaces exist. When I’m doing something, I feel complete, but no one can keep active twenty- four hours a day. As soon as I stop, I feel there’s something lacking. You’ve often said to me that I’m a naturally restless person, but I didn’t choose to be that way. I’d like to sit here quietly, watching television, but I can’t. My brain won’t stop. Sometimes I think I’m going mad. I need always to be dancing, writing, selling land, taking care of Viorel, or reading whatever I find to read. Do you think that’s normal?”

There are many places in the book where her search for finding out her true identity is brought out in a very compelling manner. Not afraid to tell her dreams she makes her own rules and lives by them.

“Athena’s great problem was that she was a woman of the twenty-second century living in the twenty-first. Did she pay a price? She certainly did. But she would have paid a still higher price if she had repressed her natural exuberance. She would have been bitter, frustrated, always saying ‘I’ll just sort these things out, and then I’ll devote myself to my dream,’ always complaining ‘that the conditions are never quite right’.”

—Deirdre O’Neil, known as Edda in The Witch of Portobello

I won’t write much about the story as I would prefer that the readers buy a copy and discover Athena and themselves through the book itself.

I have by now read it at least ten times and each reading has made me connect to some aspect in me that was hidden till now.
It made me think about my life, my identity as a woman and my relationships.

“NO one can manipulate anyone else. In any relationship, both parties know what they are doing, even if one of them complains later on that they were used.”

-The Witch of Portobello

It gave me a new strength to follow my dreams and to realize them irrespective of everything.

“People who return from battle are either dead or stronger in spite of or because of their scars. It’s better that way; I’ve lived on a battlefield since I was born, but I’m still alive and I don’t need anyone to protect me.” – The Witch of Portobello

I discovered many finer aspects of life in general and about my own quest to justify my existence in the universe.

Those who wish to know more about the author Paulo Coelho can visit his blogs on Paulo Coelho’s blogs.

And follow him on twitter paulocoelho

In the end I would recommended ‘The Witch of Portobello’ to each one of you. I rate it as a perfect 10.

3 thoughts on “The Witch of Portobello : A Must Read

  1. hey Tuki,
    Welcome to the world of paulo coelho!!! I got started with him while in college – The Alchemist. I loved it soo much, I bot 10 copies and gifted to friends and family! I think I’ve read just about each book of his. And have been subscribed to his blog for a loong loong time now. Love getting those snippets every 2 weeks.

    You might also want to read the Don Juan books by Castaneda.


  2. I have read the witch of Portobello and loved it too, I also loved The Alchemist.

    And yes Athena also struck a chord… loved the bits you have quoted. The book seemed relevant for us here in India also!


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