Enchanted Mystery – “The Witch of Portobello” by Paulo Coelho
Sometimes novels open with a bang, and Paulo Coehlo’s “The Witch of Portobello” opens with the revelation that it’s central character, a Transylvania orphan named Athena, was brutally murdered.
My interest was peaked, so I read on.
The duration of the book is people who knew the victim discussing their encounters with Athena, who by all accounts was a lovely woman constantly searching for something greater than her – something ethereal and mystical. Traveling the world with her child, Athena learns to channel energy through dance and then through calligraphy before discovering her real roots and finding her true gift. Finally, in London, she becomes a spiritual leader with devoted followers, including an actress who both adore and reviles Athena for her prowess.
There are a few moments where the action seems to drag, but it always picks up again, and it’s a mystery you really want to know the end of. (Even if the end is a little “d’oh”-worthy. Coelho lost me right at the end, which dimmed the brightness of the book a bit.) I mean, don’t promise me something and deliver something less cool.
Disappointing ending aside, the book is lovely to read, and Coehlo pinpoints every character’s voice and infuses them with individuality that makes them all stand apart from one another . It’s a wonderfully mystical journey, with hints of Marion Zimmer Bradley and even of “Eat, Pray, Love.”
So what if the last couple pages are a let-down? Nobody’s perfect.