March 10, 2013

The Witch of Portobello

A bit of history behind my reading of this book.  When it was first published back in 2007, it caught my eye in the bookstore because of the striking cover; but when I picked it up and read the cover blurb it didn't capture my imagination enough to actually read it.  Fast-forward a few years, and for the Lay Worship Leader course that I am taking, we are required to read one novel from the list.  I had already read most of the books on the list, and it includes some that I loved (The Diviners, Good to a Fault, The Life of Pi, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, A Complicated Kindness); others that I had mixed feelings about (The Red Tent, The Shack), and others that I disliked (The Poisonwood Bible, The Stone Diaries, anything by Jodi Picoult).  So when a book that had previously tempted me appeared on that list, and I was struggling to chose a novel anyways, I decided to pick this one up.

I think that part of the reason that I had resisted reading this book is the popularity of the author, and how he is lauded as a great spiritual leader.  Call me cynical, but that made me dig my heels in a bit.  And I'm afraid that reading one of his books hasn't changed my mind.

I think that I was craving / hoping for something deeper, and yet this book made me feel as though it was only scratching the surface without giving any real substance.

I did enjoy how the book is structured.  It is centred around one woman - Sherine, who changes her name to Athena.  It is a fictional biography that is constructed through interviews with people who knew her in one capacity or another.  You get to see Athena through other people's lenses and memories, without her actually making an appearance in the book.

I did not like the ending.  It seemed to build and build with fore-shadowing galore; but then seemed to just fizzle out when I was hoping that it would go out with a bang.

Overall though, I don't think that I will be reading any of this author's other books.

On a more positive note, I am facilitating and participating in a reading challenge on FaceBook, and one of the challenges was to read a book that you chose because of it's cover.  The cover is even more striking in real-life than in the picture; but unfortunately the book didn't live up to it's cover.

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