September 16, 2008
The Witch of Portobello
Book bought in: Los Angeles
This would be the fifth book by Coelho that I’ve read over the past two, three years. There has been The Alchemist, naturally. Two books of his I’ve also enjoyed are Veronika Decides to Die and The Zahir. The Devil and Miss Prym was a unique novel.
And now, his latest novel. Through various first-person accounts, the ‘biography’ of an influential young woman begins to unravel. Born a gypsy, but raised in London by adoptive parents, the always restless Athena goes in search of her path – ways to fill the emptiness in her life. The blank spaces, the silence. Through the eyes of the people who knew her, loved her, despised her, raised her, taught her or heard of her, we learn of Athena’s life as she grows out to be a leader hoping to inspire people to find their own spirituality as opposed to living by what society deems is the proper way to have faith.
And in the meantime The Witch of Portobello, like all others by this author, has the intent to allow the readers to look inside themselves as well.
But in this case, I could not relate in any way to Athena or what she stands for. Though I never had trouble with Coelho’s books before, this time I couldn’t interpret most of his messages and transform his words into something that could touch me. Perhaps this time, my skepticism won.
As evident from the self-portrait accompanying this review, it’s clear that upon finishing this book, it felt as though something was missing; to my own surprise, and contrary to my experiences with Coelho’s other novels, I was left dissatisfied.
Though it by no means was an average or dull novel – despite its thin plot, it was entertaining and it definitely had its originality – having read and being moved by his other novels, I have to compare this novel to Coelho’s other work. And in that comparison, ironically, this book about a powerful, modern witch didn’t quite have that magic touch.
January 14th 2007.
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