The Witch of Portobello

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo CoelhoFull Title: The Witch of Portobello: A Novel
Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: Harper Perennial (2007)
Number of Pages: 268
How long it took me to read: 3 weeks
Where I bought it: Tampa International Airport
ISBN: 978-0-06-133881-6

Like a Moth to a Flame

I walked past it at the airport on my way back from a visit with the parental figures. I fell in love with the deep blue colors of its cover. It would be an opportunity to reconnect with Coelho’s words – words with which I often seem to cross paths at airports. I liked the idea of reading about a witch. I just wanted to be inspired.

Favorite Five

My favorite 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “…I would never risk letting go of a certainty in favor of a mere possibility…” ~Hernon Ryan, Journalist (p. 166)

4. “Believing that I was blinded by love, I doubted everything, but doubt, far from paralyzing me, pushed me in the direction of oceans whose very existence I couldn’t admit.” ~Hernon Ryan, Journalist (p.4)

3. “When the flames had burned down, I took a little ash and sprinkled it on Athena’s head. Then with my feet I erased the circle I’d drawn around her.
‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I felt very loved, wanted, protected.’
‘In difficult moments, remember that feeling.’
‘Now that I’ve found my path, there will be no more difficult moments. After all, I have a mission to fulfill, don’t I?’
‘Yes, we all have a mission to fulfill.’
She started to feel uncertain.
‘And what about the difficult moments?’ she asked.
‘That isn’t an intelligent thing to ask. Remember what you said just now: you are loved, wanted, protected.’
‘I’ll do my best.’” (p.237)

2. “You are not here to receive definite answers. My mission is to provoke you. In the past, both governors and governed went to oracles who would foretell the future. The future, however, is unreliable because it is guided by decisions made in the here and now. Keep the bicycle moving, because if you stop pedaling, you will fall off.” ~Hagia Sofia (p.198)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “There is only one difference between teacher and disciple: the former is slightly less afraid than the latter.” ~Deidre O’Neill, known as Edde (p. 213)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“As a writer, are you meant to read as much as possible in order to immerse yourself earlobe-deep in the craft as both observer and creator, or are you supposed to avoid reading at all costs in an effort to produce original work? Something tells me it’s the former.”

“I want to read something different tomorrow, partly because one of my goals is to read numerous books concurrently, and partly because I’m not sure how much I’m really enjoying this book. I remember reading a collection of Coelho’s short stories – something I purchased in an airport in Madrid – and I liked that book much more. Maybe it’s the heavy influence of gypsy culture that’s putting me off. Maybe it’s his writing style – I don’t always know who’s talking. It can get confusing. Maybe it’s the kind of book you have to read more than once to fully appreciate – to fully understand.”

“…I’m a good deal past the middle of the book but I’m still not sure what’s going on. Is that the sign of a brilliant piece of writing – so complex that only the most perceptive of readers can grasp the message without needing to reread it? I don’t think I’d like to read a book twice. There are so many other books to read.”

“For the first time, the book spoke to me, Paulo spoke to me, the witch spoke to me. I had to read 2.3.8. pages, numerous words, countless sentences, even reread some paragraphs, but finally, the spirit of the book spoke to me. The pages that remain are stacked so thinly in my right hand that I feel the warmth of my fingers heating my thumb, but at least I get it now.”

“Oh, how I relate to Athena’s desire to seek out assurance! I can’t count the number of times I’ve searched for someone to tell me that once I surrender, the difficulties will stop interfering. Especially when I think I’ve just made it through my most challenging battle, all I want is to know that the hardest is behind me. Even before seeking out water to replenish my feeble core, all I demand is reassurance. All I want is for someone to promise me that there are no more treacherous tests awaiting me. I don’t want to need to become stronger anymore. I want to know that I’ve arrived, or at least that I can stop climbing – no more scaling slippery walls, no more scraping knees, no more running from fears and scrambling for shelter when the perceived conditions become inhumane. I just want to know that I’ve faced the worst, and that just for surviving, I’ve won peace of mind, peace of body, peace of soul…but I’m starting to realize…that’s not so much the case in what we like to call the ‘real world’.”

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