The epic of Thesus, the boy king of Eleusis, ritually preordained to die after one year of marriage to the sacred queen but who defies God's decree and claims his inheritance - the throne of Athens. This re-creation of a Greek myth is written by the author of The Last of the Wine.
©1958 Mary Renault (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
"One of the truly fine historical novels of modern times. Not since Robert Graves's I, Claudius has there been such an exciting living image of the Ancient World on this grand scale." (New York Times)
"Takes the raw material of myth and makes it credible - I am spellbound by Miss Renault's art." (Observer)
"Vivid and convincing...it brims with feeling." (Sunday Times)
Mary Renault was a good writer but, like so many of her generation, she was afflicted by a downer on women. Unsurprising, then, that this novel has a downer on Minoan culture. If she had been ahead of her time in that respect, her writing would have been great. She was not, and this constrains her work. Sad, and must have caused her pain in her personal life, she living as a woman and furthermore one whose only lifelong romantic relationship was with another woman.
This is the rare book that functions as a great story regardless of how much of the background material you are familiar with. As a retelling of a classic myth, it reads as a coming-of-age story set in antiquity. But, the more familiar one is with the source material, the more astounding the book becomes. There is a ton of historical referencing done, but the genius of it is that it doesn't stand out from the story, it only serves it. The more you know about the mystery cults of Hellenic and pre-Hellenic Greece, the more fascinating the story goes. A little background reading on the Eleusinian and Bacchic/Dionysus mystery cults, as well as the Minoan culture and Palatial periods and even the volcanic eruption on Thera/Kalliste ca 1500BCE open up an entirely different perspective on Renault's talent. For me, this is the finest historical novel I've read. Kris Dyer's narration here is spot-on as well.
"Finally! An unabridged old favorite"
I've loved this book since I first read it 25 years ago as assigned reading for a university course. Mary Renault makes the story of Theseus so plausible. I thoroughly enjoyed the unabridged audio version.
"Good read for classics majors"
I first read Mar Renaults books in high school, so they have nostalgia value for me. Good tales, well-researched and plausible. The Theseus story is told in King Must Die and Bull from the Sea, and the parallel Alexander one in Fire from Heaven, the Persian Boy (my favorite) and Funeral Games. Last of the Wine is a lovely picture of Greece's golden age with Socrates and Plato, and the Praise Singer much earlier in history.
The readers are adequate and the books are unabridged. Pleasant and interesting read.
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