This is a modern-day adventure story featuring Paulo’s supernatural encounter with angels – who appear as warrior women and travel through the Mojave desert on their motorbikes.
Haunted by a devastating curse, Paulo is instructed by his mysterious spiritual master to embark upon a journey – to find and speak to his guardian angel in an attempt to confront and overcome his dark past. The Valkyries is a compelling account of this forty day quest into the searing heat of the Mojave Desert, where Paulo and his wife, Chris, encounter the Valkyries – warrior women who travel the desert on motorcycles, spreading the word of angels.
It’s been a few years since I discovered Coelho’s writing in Adultery and The Alchemist. I’ve read a couple of other books by him since, and they’ve been a mixture of hits and misses.
The Valkyrie falls somewhere in between for me.
This book tells the story of Paulo and his wife Christina that travels to the Mojave desert to find their guardian angel. It is classified as fiction, as Coelho himself has taken a bit of creative freedom when telling their story.
I find spiritual stories to be very interesting, but when it comes to The Valkyries, the heavy focus on angels just wasn’t a huge hit with me. It painted such a strong picture of religion and not spirituality, which isn’t really my cup of tea. That being said, Coelho is a very talented storyteller, and he does well with building up an interesting storyline of their trip to the desert.
I thought the parts of the story where Paulo and Christina spent time with the Valkyries was the most interesting part, and I would have loved to have gotten to know even more about them.
But I also understand that Paulo didn’t want to make up too much of their stories by adding plenty of fiction to it.
This might be what makes me lose interest in the story at times. It is the fact that I don’t know what’s fiction and what’s real. This makes it hard to be baffled by the miracles and happenings of this story because I can’t seem to wrap my head around what’s a truly amazing personal experience and what just happens to be make-believe. This might just be my personal preference about the build-up of a story that ruins this for me, I’m not sure.
I didn’t think that The Valkyries was a bad book, I just think it wasn’t for me. The religious aspect of it turned out to be a bit overwhelming for my taste, and it didn’t leave me with that lasting impression that for instance The Alchymist or Adultery did. That being said, I can definitely see the message that he wants to come across when it comes to facing our own past and forgiving.
So overall I would say that The Valkyries is an interesting story with much potential, and for the right person, I think it could be an amazing read. Unfortunately, I am not that person.
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I read a Norwegian hardback version of The Witch of Portobello.
Publisher: Bazar Forlag (Norwegian edition)
Originally published: September, 2006
Pages: 319 (hardback)
Audiobook length: 8 Hours and 14 Minutes
Blurb by the publisher:
Paulo Coelho, one of the world’s best-loved storytellers, is back with a riveting novel tracing the mysterious life and disappearance of Athena dubbed `the Witch of Portobello’, which was a top ten Sunday Times bestseller in hardback.
This is the story of Athena, or Sherine, to give her the name she was baptized 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.
I’m not sure what it was that I expected from this novel, except that I always have high expectations whenever I go into a new Coelho novel.
The Witch of Portobello tells the story of Athena (aka. Sherine Khalil) told through the people that she met throughout her life. We get to know at the very beginning of the story that Athena is dead, but we don’t know how or why. This is the thing that drives the story forward.
Through “interviews” with family, lovers, friends, and acquaintances, Coelho paints the picture of this mysterious woman coming from a gypsy background in Transylvania, adopted into a wealthy Lebanese family and then marrying and having a child at the age of 18. We then get to know the mysterious story of how her life unfolds through the lives that she touched in one way or the other. Some for better, some for worse.
There’s quite a lot of mystery to this story, and to find out how everything builds up to the ending of Athena’s life. As this is a Coelho novel, there is a certain amount of talk about religion and spirituality, which I think is to be expected if one has read any of his other novels. I for one don’t mind it, but I also feel like it can become a bit much at times.
I also had a bit of a hard time connecting to the character of Athena. That could be because we never really get to see or hear anything from her perspective. That makes her a character that’s hard for me to get a connection to, and therefore also one that I couldn’t really find myself fully invested in.
Even so, Coelho is a really good storyteller, and I never found this story to be boring or my mind to drift.
An interesting story about an interesting character’s fate, but the writing style didn’t fully appeal to me, unfortunately.
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