From one of the world's best loved storytellers, Paulo Coelho, comes a riveting novel tracing the mysterious life and disappearance of Athena dubbed ‘the Witch of Portobello’.
This is the story of Athena, or Sherine, to give her the name she was baptised with. Her life is pieced together through a series of recorded interviews with those people who knew her well or hardly at all – parents, colleagues, teachers, friends, acquaintances, her ex-husband.
The novel unravels Athena's mysterious beginnings, via an orphanage in Romania, to a childhood in Beirut. When war breaks out, her adoptive family move with her to London, where a dramatic turn of events occurs…
Athena, who has been dubbed 'the Witch of Portobello' for her seeming powers of prophecy, disappears dramatically, leaving those who knew her to solve the mystery of her life and abrupt departure.
Like The Alchemist, The Witch of Portobello is the kind of story that will transform the way readers think about love, passion, joy and sacrifice.
Praise for the Witch of Portobello:
‘Filled with Coelho’s recurring themes – spirituality, destiny, freedom – this is a riveting and inspiring read.’ Belfast Telegraph
‘Paulo Coelho successfully defines the undefinable and possesses the skill to handle the abstract without being too confusing or vague.’ Irish Mail on Sunday
Praise for Paulo Coelho:
‘An exceptional writer.' USA Today
‘His books have had a life-enhancing impact on millions of people.’ Times
‘One of the few to deserve the term “Publishing Phenomenon”.’ Independent on Sunday
‘Coelho’s writing is beautifully poetic but his message is what counts…he gives me hope and puts a smile on my face.’ Daily Express
About the author
Paulo Coelho is the author of The Alchemist, he was born in 1947 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Being the author of 30 books that have sold over 320 million copies in 170 countries, he has become one of the most widely read authors in the world today. Paulo Coelho has been a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2007 and this has allowed him to continue to promote intercultural dialogue and to focus on the needs of children. He is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and the recipient of over 115 awards and honours, including the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the Grinzane Cavour Book Award and the Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur, to name a few.
Other titles include: The Pilgrimage, Brida, The Valkyries, The Fifth Mountain, Manual of the Warrior of Light, Veronika Decides to Die, The Devil and Miss Prym, Eleven Minutes, The Zahir, Like the Flowing River, The Witch of Portobello, The Winner Stands Alone, Aleph.
Multimillion-seller Coelho (The Devil and Miss Prym, etc.) returns with another uncanny fusion of philosophy, religious miracle and moral parable. The Portobello of the title is London's Portobello Road, where Sherine Khalil, aka Athena, finds the worship meeting she's leading where she becomes an omniscient goddess named Hagia Sophia disrupted by a Protestant protest. Framed as a set of interviews conducted with those who knew Athena, who is dead as the book opens, the story recounts her birth in Transylvania to a Gypsy mother, her adoption by wealthy Lebanese Christians; her short, early marriage to a man she meets at a London college (one of the interviewees); her son Viorel's birth; and her stint selling real estate in Dubai. Back in London in the book's second half, Athena learns to harness the powers that have been present but inchoate within her, and the story picks up as she acquires a "teacher" (Deidre O'Neill, aka Edda, another interviewee), then disciples (also interviewed), and speeds toward a spectacular end. Coelho veers between his signature criticism of modern life and the hydra-headed alternative that Athena taps into. Athena's earliest years don't end up having much plot, but the second half's intrigue sustains the book.