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The Witch of Portobello

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3.54  ·  Rating details ·  69,488 ratings  ·  3,742 reviews
How do we find the courage to always be true to ourselves—even if we are unsure of whom we are?

That is the central question of international bestselling author Paulo Coelho's profound new work, The Witch of Portobello. It is the story of a mysterious woman named Athena, told by the many who knew her well—or hardly at all.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published 2007 (first published September 2006)
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Ying Liu Yes! His works are amazingly inspiring. Sometimes those words can answer my questions few people have clues of. I mean, everything seems to be clear w…moreYes! His works are amazingly inspiring. Sometimes those words can answer my questions few people have clues of. I mean, everything seems to be clear when I open his book. I even feel that it's not me that choose the book - actually it's the book that chooses me. It's said that the right book will appear in your sight at the right time.(less)

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Average rating 3.54  · 
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Raych
Mar 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
I always wished that Paulo Coehlo was my uncle so that I could call him ‘Papa Coelho’ and sit at his knee while he smoked his pipe. I think that he would be delightfully eccentric, and given to saying things like ‘Suffering, if confronted without fear, is the great passport to freedom.’ So, true, Papa Coelho. So true.
If he was my uncle, though, I might not tell him that I thought The Alchemist was tripe, and that most of his books carry too much philosophizing and not enough narrative. But in
...more
Julia
Oct 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book *really* made me think about who I am and where I am going, and who I want to be as a woman, a wife, a soon-to-be-mother, a daughter, and a human.

I didn't always like Paulo Coehlo's work. I tried to read The Alchemist in college and the novel just didn't do it for me. But a friend recommended Veronika Decides to Die to me while a loved one was in the hospital for depression and I was struggling to understand what might be happening in there, and ever since, Coehlo has been one of my ob
...more
Mykle
Mar 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Mega-church enthusiasts.
Recommended to Mykle by: Portland International Airport
Trapped for hours in an airport with nothing to read, my wife was further victimized by this remarkably bad book, one of five books available for sale in Portland International Airport at 2am.

You can turn to any page and find a really hackneyed phrase. Kahil Gibrain's psuedo-religious drivel was at least poetic and brief by comparison. The story is supposed to be the voices of different people, but the Catholic priest, the Lebanese mother, the 65-year old restaurant owner, are all utterly indis
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
A Bruxa de Portobello = The witch of portobello, Paulo Coelho

The Witch of Portobello is a fiction work by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho published in 2007, about a woman born in Transylvania to a Romani mother in a gypsy tribe without wedlock. The central character is abandoned by her birth mother because the father was a foreigner (gadje) and later adopted by a wealthy Lebanese couple.

عنوانها: ساحره پورتوبلو؛ ساحره ی پورتوبلو؛ جادوگر پورتوبلو؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز نخست ماه ژوئن سال 2008میلادی

ع
...more
jill
Jan 03, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: found-on-a-plane
Preachy new age-y bullshit, with a distinct undertone of "I'm idealizing feminine qualities, so I can't possibly be sexist" sexism. Seriously, one of his characters lists four female archetypes that women supposedly follow, and although he calls them the witch, the virgin, the martyr and the saint, it's just that quote about how all roles for actresses are hookers, victims or doormats, with "bitch" thrown in for variety. The use of various narrators is one of my favorite narrative devices, but i ...more
Anish Kohli
Jan 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
What a load of crap, this..!!!
I had long since wanted to try a Paulo Coelho book and I picked this on impulse.
Man, I've never been soo damn wrong in my life.
Half way through it, I was getting HEADSPINS...!!! Being stubborn as I am, somehow managed to get through it and was left utterly dismayed and with a very bad taste in my mouth.
HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE..!!
The author literally CHOKES you on his idea of spirituality and self awareness.

WORST READ EVER..!!!!!!!
Lynn Wilson
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I literally could not put this book down. While I'm a book lover and devour many books, I consider this one to be a very special treat.
Lamski Kikita
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people willing to be spiritually penetrated
spiritual, mystical, and will absolutely take over your soul!
while reading this book, i felt inhibited by every feeling and gesture, and was possessed by Athena, the woman who is everything each and everyone of us want to be, but is afraid of becoming. The book certainly questions organized religions and brings back the idea of mother earth as the ultimate goddess. I have to, no, i MUST, type up this quote:

" We women, when we are searching for a meaning to our lives or for the path of knowledge,
...more
Matt
Mar 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one.
This is not a novel -- it's a treatise. There is a character, Athena, that I never come to care about, and there is no plot. What IS there, you ask? Well, there's an explication of a belief system. That's it. That's what this is.

Most of the book is taken up in various people talking to each other in the kind of philosophical conversations that normal people almost never have. Whenever you see a chat starting, buckle up.

I couldn't have been more disappointed, as I like Coelho most of the time. I
...more
⊱ Poppy ⊰
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
‘The Witch of Portobello’ by Paulo Coelho is not a straight biographical book or the opinion of the writer on its main protagonists. It’s what the other people transcribe the writer about the women, the Witch of Portobello.

“No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door……..No one sacrifices the most important thing she possesses: love. No one places her dreams in the hands of those who might destroy them. No one, that is, but Athena.”

It’s the story of Athena, or Sherine Khalil, who
...more
Abby
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
I really, really wanted to like this book. I've heard wonderful things about Coelho and was excited to try him out, I love topics that deal with witchcraft and things fantastical, and I'm a sucker for redheaded heroines.

But ...

I found this novel and its ideas on the nature of spirituality really preachy, pedantic and overblown. I was so annoyed by the middle of the book that I nearly put it down, but the cover art convinced me to keep trying. Surely the artist must have been inspired to create
...more
Ankit Garg
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
What in the name of the holy Lord was this? Paulo Coelho is a celebrated author, but The Witch of Portobello totally missed the home run in my opinion.

Now, before you come at me with all the swords and daggers drawn, I do agree that the novel tried to convey a beautiful message. I got the 'message' part, but where was the 'conveying' part? Either that, or I just didn't get the way the author used to drive his point home. Either way, the book ended up being a disappointment in my view. With high
...more
Amy McHugh
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Picked up this book at SFO before boarding my plane to Hawaii. Seemed like a total accident, given I had never heard of it and wasn't planning to buy it. But having read it, I acknowledge this as an example of the belief "there are no accidents."

From early childhood, I have been keenly aware of an accessible spiritual world, but lacked the encourgement or guidance to foster my ability to contact that world.

While the underlying message of this book is exploring the answer to the question "What is
...more
Andrea
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those who are looking for the inner flower
Recommended to Andrea by: No one
This book was a little "much." I was first introduced to Paulo Coelho with his acclaimed novel The Alchemist. I loved The Alchemist. It's clear the author is a "spiritualist" and takes pleasure in teaching lessons through simplicity and beauty. I found the Alchemist inspiring and well-written. The Witch of Portobello I found cultish and flowery. There was nothing natural about it - rather - almost something "forced" in trying to convey the story of a young woman finding her "center" through "the ...more
Kirsty
Mar 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really sure how to review this book. It's so completely different to anything I've ever read. I'm therefore not going to try to analyse it, because there are some fantastic reviews for this book, and I know mine will not be of the same standard. So I'm basically just going to write down my thoughts, and how the book made me feel.

The main character, Athena, discovers that there could be more to life after going to her neighbour's flat to complain about the loud music. What she sees when s
...more
Shaikha Alahmad
Believe it or not, this is my first Paulo Coelho book and it was given to me by a dear friend. 💙

2.5/5

This the story of Athena, a mysterious woman, the story itself told by many different flesh entities who knew her or did not know her at all. She was born in Romania and her parents, a successful industrialist family of Beirut adopted her, as their much-loved, much-wanted daughter, who grew in wisdom and beauty. From an early age she had a strong religious vocation and knew all the gospels by hea
...more
Brandon
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
I bought this book in Cabo for a few pesos and later found it was being given away FREE, so my expectations were somewhat tempered and let me just say Coelho does not disappoint. Ahem.

On a positive note, Paulo Coelho has one of the great names in contemporary fiction, one that exudes a sort of exotic erudition, so one might say that only an author as magnificent as Coelho can draw the reader in and convince that reader he is purposefully fooling the reader into believing that this book was writt
...more
Caroline
Mar 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: few
Major disappointment. I've enjoyed Paulo Coelho's work before, but this is a very weak novel. I admit that I am easily creeped out by the kind of leaky spirituality that this book revolves around, but beyond that, the writing for female characters is god-awful and the mystic quest that the protagonist is on is laughable. The mystery of the compiler of all the separate accounts, once revealed, escaped being predictable by being stupid. A phoned-in, whimper of a book.
Alexandra
Sep 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the type of book I recommend you read in a quiet, comfortable room with the sunlight streaming in through the windows and the whole day stretched in front of you to think.
You might ask yourself, "Shouldn't all books be read under those conditions?"
While that would be ideal, that isn't always the case. Plenty of times I'll throw a book into my bag and read while I'm waiting for various appointments or to pass the time in the minutes before I have to run off and do all kinds of stuff on a
...more
Mohamed
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
when you read to Paulo Coelho you feel happiness, this is what one newspaper wrote on Coelho books. Every time I read one of his book i feel that and I learn some thing new.
Mainly I learned from "the Witch of Portobello" how to feel gabs, how to make sens to your life by seeking for aim behind it. The life will be harsh on us but like forging, the iron should be exposed to fire, hammer and cold water in order to get its final shape and play its role in life.
Sara
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I don't know if I give 2.5 or 3 stars tbh.
I'm not really into spiritual stuff so I didn't understand most things that were referred in this book. Although I liked some parts of the book and some quotes. I also found myself curious to know more about Athena's journey, so that was probably what kept me reading. The writting style was good. It's not a book that I would recommend to someone, unless that person is really into spirituality.
Reemawi
May 04, 2010 rated it did not like it
I decided to read this as part of a string of Paolo Coelho novels in a sort of marathon. This is the fourth in a row, and I must say the worst, by far.

Not only is it absolutely pointless and riddled with repeated themes and preachy tones, but it is also extremely boring. I'm amazed that I made it to page 192 before I decided to just skip pages to get to a more tangible part of what resembles a plot, which this book lacks in the worst possible way.

Never once did I sympathize or care what happen
...more
Chris Dietzel
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
It says a lot about how great of a storyteller Coelho is that this book is no where near as good as The Alchemist and not even as good as Veronika Decides to Die and yet it was still entertaining, a quick read, and most importantly for Coelho's readers, enlightening on how people work and the lessons we can learn from life. ...more
Izlinda
I didn't finish this book... I feel kind of bad about that, especially as this was a gift, but the writing style and topic got on my nerves. It's about Athena and...well, it goes through people's interviews/written memoirs about her after her death. So we never know anything from the "primary source," if you will. The "voices" of a variety of characters sound all the same - a father, her ex-husband, her teacher, a journalist, her student, a man who taught her calligraphy, her mother, her biologi ...more
Ivi
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
loved it :)
Jamie
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So different, and yet the same: this book appealed to me in the way of The Secret History, A Shadow of the Wind and a handful of others. Which is to say, I stayed up late reading it, I woke up early. I took actual lunch breaks and ate while reading while scribbling in my book, dog-earing pages and thinking of all the people I needed to give my copy to once I finished. Of course, I can't--it might make me blush for anyone to see the underlined passages in a fiction book, even if it is touching on ...more
Farith
this wasn’t bad, just not for me.

i really didn’t care about what was going on nor any of the characters, however i strongly believe it is the type of story that a lot of people i know would love.
Jaclyn Day
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was surprised by this. It’s gritty and earthy (and sexy), and a surprisingly insightful look at the spinning fluidity of feminine tropes.

Athena’s self-confidence in her role as woman, mother, lover, and leader is absolute, and the most wonderful thing about it is that her story is told entirely through the testimony of others. By seeing Athena through their eyes, we develop our own opinions about her strengths and weaknesses, and see her as a complex—but whole—person. Power and the feminine di
...more
Ying Liu
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Paulo's books are amazingly inspiring. His words contain the power to reflect your inner world. We're all searching for the meaning of this life. Compared to traditional organized religions, the faith in Mother Earth claims no sin. No judge. In the name of Love and Freedom. I guess I'd probably follow a path of enlightenment as a Virgin or a Witch.
Eya Chafroud
This was a truly weird book. I mean i totally get the spirituality aspect of all this but it utterly did not make any sense.

I liked the writing style, the different pov and interviews by different people, that was very creative but the whole trances and Hagia Sophia and dances were very very confusing and unconventional and out if respect for other people's opinions i would say that it was just weird to explore the feminine side of god and the divinity of human beings.
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The Brazilian author PAULO COELHO was born in 1947 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theatre director and actor, lyricist and journalist. In 1986, PAULO COELHO did the pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella, an experience later to be documented in his book The Pilgrimage. In the following year, COELHO published The Alchemist. Slow in ...more

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