I’ve been in love with Athenna ever since I’ve read the Witch of Portobello. That, in one line, should define the impact the book has had on me. I’d been in a phase where I read all of Paulo Coelho. Yet, this book took me by surprise. What makes it unique? The narrative.
The book is about Athenna, a girl too strong to settle for mediocre. Born out of wedlock to a gypsy woman with a foreigner, she was left for adoption. She led a comfortable life with this Lebanese couple who had adopted her and gave her everything she ever needed. Yet, when she felt the need to look for her roots, she moved heavens and hell, starting from begging her parents to let her free, getting married at a very young age, being a mother at a very young age, and then moving between the sands, all while on a journey. And she discovers her mother, and a whole new world – of Pagan religion, and the nature worship. She is, later, labeled as the Witch of Portobello, and shunned into oblivion.
This is her story. This is the story, narrated by different people at different timeline. It isn’t a straight narrative, and perhaps that’s what keeps the readers hooked. Also, the pace of storytelling is fast. There are no false notes in this book. I can’t imagine how the original would have been considering that all of Coelho’s books are translations. He doesn’t write in English. More than a decade after having first read her story, I still continue to be in love with The Witch of Portobello, because she represents the strength of a woman who decides to take things in her own hands, who doesn’t regret her decisions but quickly moves on, and who is so strong that she has the power to recognize her own shortcomings. To Athenna.