The Witch of Portobello

The Witch of Portobello

3.8 123
by Paulo Coelho, Rita Wolf
     
 

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

That is the central question of international bestselling author Paulo Coelho's profound new work, The Witch of Portobello. It is the story of a mysterious woman named Athena, told by the many who knew her well—or hardly at all. Like The

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Overview

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

That is the central question of international bestselling author Paulo Coelho's profound new work, The Witch of Portobello. It is the story of a mysterious woman named Athena, told by the many who knew her well—or hardly at all. Like The Alchemist, The Witch of Portobello is the kind of story that will transform the way readers think about love, passion, joy, and sacrifice.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Multimillion-seller Coelho (The Devil and Miss Prym, etc.) returns with another uncanny fusion of philosophy, religious miracle and moral parable. The Portobello of the title is London's Portobello Road, where Sherine Khalil, aka Athena, finds the worship meeting she's leading-where she becomes an omniscient goddess named Hagia Sophia-disrupted by a Protestant protest. Framed as a set of interviews conducted with those who knew Athena, who is dead as the book opens, the story recounts her birth in Transylvania to a Gypsy mother, her adoption by wealthy Lebanese Christians; her short, early marriage to a man she meets at a London college (one of the interviewees); her son Viorel's birth; and her stint selling real estate in Dubai. Back in London in the book's second half, Athena learns to harness the powers that have been present but inchoate within her, and the story picks up as she acquires a "teacher" (Deidre O'Neill, aka Edda, another interviewee), then disciples (also interviewed), and speeds toward a spectacular end. Coelho veers between his signature criticism of modern life and the hydra-headed alternative that Athena taps into. Athena's earliest years don't end up having much plot, but the second half's intrigue sustains the book. (May) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Many people tell the story of Athena, the "witch of Portobello Road," who was abandoned by her gypsy mother, raised by adoptive parents in Beirut, and ended up living all over the globe. Look for the prepublication campaign at Starbucks. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Coelho (The Devil and Miss Prym, 2006, etc.) returns to his favored (and incredibly successful) territory of spiritual questing in this tedious account of a young woman's ascendancy as a guru. Athena is dead, and now a kind of hagiography is being pieced together to better understand this young woman of influence and mystery. A number of testimonies comprise the portrait of Athena, from her adoptive mother, to disciples, to the manager at the bank where she once worked. But instead of creating a rich and varied character study, the assorted narrators repeat the same facile analysis of the meaning of life. We learn that Athena was a Romanian orphan, adopted by a wealthy Lebanese couple. The two dote on their daughter, and turn a blind eye to her youthful visions and prophesies. When Beirut becomes uninhabitable, the family moves to London where Athena attends engineering school. Feeling unfulfilled she forces her student boyfriend into marriage so she can have a child to fill up the vast empty space in her soul; she flits from one endeavor to another to try to fill this unnamable void. She and her husband divorce and she takes up a kind of dervish-style dancing (which she shares with her coworkers at the bank-doubling all of their productivity levels), then moves to Dubai and learns calligraphy from a Bedouin, hoping the patience needed will fix her restlessness. When she goes to Romania to find her birth mother (she's sure this will help her gain a truer sense of herself), she meets a Scottish woman who becomes her teacher in the search for the universal Mother, a kind of New Age paganism that promises a healing path out of the chaos of modern living. When Athena moves back to London, herpopularity (and skill in prophesy) increases, and she develops a following-as well as detractors: Christians who accuse her of Satanism and being a witch. At turns didactic and colorless, Coelho's narrative captures nothing of the wonder and potential beauty of a life devoted to the spirit-instead, Athena seems little more than a self-indulgent girl. A disappointing rehash of pretty conventional spirituality.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061877827
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/17/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
312
Sales rank:
109,177
File size:
1 MB

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