Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My first book of 2014

I want to do a better job of keeping up with book reviews especially when I'm reading such good stuff. This week I finished The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho.  He is one of my favorite authors because his writing always stretches my own thinking.


A Middle Eastern couple from Beirut travel to Romania to adopt a child.  They have a wonderful life and feel that the only thing missing is a child.  After days of trying to decide on one baby in an overflowing orphanage the woman chooses a gypsy baby and names her Sherine.  A family uncle later reminds them that Sherine, now a young lady, will want to go out into the world with a less ethnic name and he nicknames her Athena.  She adores this new nickname and perhaps that small gesture of a name change helped to transform her.  She has always been a religious child and feels a deep connection to the church.

She marries young,  bears a son but chooses not to stay married and to raise her son on her own.  Her love for her son transforms her everyday life and she begins to look more deeply into her heart and soul.  Coehlo writes so gracefully that you fall in love with this woman as she questions, transforms and believes in something greater in all of us.  Told through alternating points-of-view we get to see Athena from all angles and how each person is affected by her.  Through some of the more learned characters seeking answers about Athena{the witch} we get some profound dialogue:

The character Antoine Locadour, historian explains life and the changes that Athena is experiencing using the philosophy of Carl Jung:

"...we all drank from the same spring.  It's called the "soul of the world." However much we try to be independent individuals, a part of our memory is the same.  We all see the ideal of beauty, dance, divinity, and music." (170)


"Society, meanwhile, tries to define how these ideals should be manifested in reality. Currently, for example, the ideal of beauty is to be thin, and yet thousands of years ago all the images of goddesses were fat.  It's the same with happiness; there are a series of rules, and if you fail to follow them, your conscious mind will refuse to accept the idea that you're happy." (170)

and continues with

"The Shadow is our dark side, which dictates how we should act and behave.  When we try to free ourselves from the Persona, we turn on a light inside us and we see the cobwebs, the cowardice , the meanness.  The Shadow is there to stop our progress, and it usually succeeds, and we run back to what we were before we doubted.  However, some do survive this encounter with their own cobwebs, saying: 'Yes, I have a few faults, but I'm good enough, and I want to go forward." (171)

Athena, through her encounter with Edda learns more about her own female center and to trust in herself and what she understands as Mother Earth, a female God.  I loved the journey this book took me on as I have every book Coehlo has written.  My other favorites are The Alchemist and By the River Piedra I sat down and cried. Find Paulo Coelho at his website.  I picked this one up at a used book sale and I'm making it my quest to read the rest of his books.  

1 comment:

Belle Wong said...

The Alchemist has been in my TBR pile for a while. The Witch of Portobello sounds like a good read.