Book Reviews - On a Quest
by Anita Anand
The Witch of Portobello is the story of Athena, a woman born in Romania, raised in Beirut, and living in London and Dubai. Her story is told by the many people who came in contact with her – journalist, husband, biological mother, adopted father and mother, actress, boss, landlord, historian, seamstress, restaurant owner, Bedouin, numerologist and priest – a rich perspective of views and perceptions.
The book is about Athena’s search for herself, her restless and wandering self. Blessed with an intuitive attraction to the spiritual world, she studied about the saints, took to dancing, and getting into trances; and during this time, speaking through the voice of Hagia Sofia, a prophetic voice manifested through her. She saw things that others did not see. She developed a following, and began to be sought after in Portobello.
But having a certain power also means that people are wary of you, afraid of you, and may want to get rid of you. It is this fear that drives people to close their hearts and minds, and prevents them from finding themselves. This was also Athena’s experience. The more she saw and learned about herself, the more she wanted. And, in this quest, she alienated and kept away those who loved her.
Like Coelho’s other works of fiction, The Witch of Portobello takes us beyond the realm of the known into the unknown. It’s an opportunity to explore this unknown, in order to understand the known. It is magical and gripping. It’s ancient and contemporary. It is old-fashioned and modern. It brings together the political and personal in a persuasive and appealing way.
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