Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Witch of Portobello

Although The Witch of Portobello’s book jacket proclaims Paulo Coelho as “one of the most beloved writers of our time,” this is my first Coelho novel. Despite his past successes, Witch is one of those books that leaves me thinking: Meh.

Witch explores the life—and death—of Sherine “Athena” Khalil, a woman dubbed by the London media as the titular “Witch of Portobello.” Athena’s story is told through a series of interviews: her mother, her protégé, her teacher/“protector.”

Despite centering the novel around Athena, Coelho never fully develops the character. Instead, as my high school English teacher would say, Athena is flat and static.

The characters reporting on Athena are slightly more developed, but they still lack flesh, detail, and individual voices. At times, I lost track of whether I was reading the protégé’s testimony or the journalist’s. Their voices are practically identical.

Coehlo explores interesting territory—spirituality, Mother Earth, and authenticity. And despite not caring for or about Athena as an individual, I was interested in what led to her demise.

If the book jacket is to be believed, Witch wants to be profound, to be revolutionary, to be thought provoking. Overall, though, I was left feeling vaguely interested in the plot but mostly unsatisfied with novel’s craft. Meh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I'm a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He's the first best-selling
author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

Have a nice day!