Roman historian Procopius publicly praised Theodora of Constantinople for her piety-while secretly detailing her salacious stage act and maligning her as ruthless and power hungry. So who was this woman who rose from humble beginnings as a dancer to become the empress of Rome and a saint in the Orthodox Church? Award-winning novelist Stella Duffy vividly recreates the life and times of a woman who left her mark on one of the ancient world's most powerful empires. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore is a sexy, captivating novel that resurrects an extraordinary, little-known figure from the dusty pages of history.
©2011 Stella Duffy (P)2011 Penguin Audio
"A bravura performance: a witty, moving, sexy book that bursts with as much color and excitement as the city of Constantinople itself." (Financial Times)
I am a Byzantine enthusiast and had higher expectations. This is a very difficult period of history to write about so I'll give the author some credit. Extinct religions were mainstream back then, yet the author managed that tricky exposition rather well. Some of the historic elements were mostly researched and well organized. But the book seems to summarize characters and events rather than penetrate that world. The people and places are very much at arms-length. Also, the author decides to just invent a modern lesbian spin on Theodora that seemed dreadfully forced and out of place. Ah well, average all around.
Historical Fiction that has a lot of fiction and not much history. Davina Porter is the best thing about this book but in the end I really didn't care about the characters
Important period of history breathed into life through the lens of Theodora's life.
The author illustrated the mindsets of the day, the religious and social questions that vexed most everyone and how people in intolerable social situations made their lives.
Funny how many of the religious and social issues explored in the book remain unresolved some 2000 years later.
I was initially concerned that perhaps the sexual aspects of Theodora's life would be exploited, and was relieved by the lack of graphic detail. Nothing salacious.Super book. Read it!
The entire book poignantly showed how few options women have for autonomy in a patriarchy. Theodora's requisite service as a sex worker was treated even-handedly; I'll always remember the scene where she matter of factly paid her way from the hinterlands to Egypt by servicing two young shepherds who let her ride in their cart.I related to the description of how she disassociated her spirit and body throughout, and how she brought the two together through her time in the desert as penitent.
Davina was one of my attractions to this book; she is a masterful narrator.
Sophia the actress/whore/pimp. She was a dwarf and a woman who found a way to make her life in spite of her social and physical constraints. I'd want to understand what went through her mind and how she coped.
I found the concept of using the fictional novel format to describe a historical time and person intriguing. I was a bit disappointed by Stella Duffy constant and vulgar use of the word "f@%k" and found it redundant and distracting. Clearly Duffy did a tremendous amount of research on Theodora, Constantinople, the Romans, the Roman empire and the society of that time period and it was this that kept me listening despite Duffy's lack of better vocabulary and fixation on sexual mores of that period.
I am not the type of person who "rubber necks" at car wrecks so the constant graphic mention of minors being used for actors, acrobats and whores grated on me. I got the point right away that culturally, at that time in Constantinople, pedophilia was culturally permissible and that there was a belief that earthly deeds were not necessarily a reflection of spiritual piety.
Duffy also did a admirable job of discussing the nature of Christ and how the schism between dual and singular natured philosophies tore at the fabric of an empire. She did a somewhat decent job of describing how this issue was so important at that time that "spiritual and Pius" individuals would immerse themselves head deep in "sin" to further their agendas.
Over all a decent listen if you can overlook some of the books shortcomings and are interested in Duffy's operatic interpretation of the life and times of Empress Theodora.
Home is where my books are.
I really loved this book about a smart woman who survives and succeeds despite great hardship. I particularly loved the part in the desert, though I wouldn't have expected to, not being particularly religious. She was redeemed, but in a very authentic and real way. It was well written. Davina Porter is excellent as usual, and a very good choice for this book.
And although I did miss a stronger historical aspect to this historical novel, I found it very entertaining. (I had hoped for a little more in the way of the atmosphere of The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry. A mashup of the two books would make for an excellent novel of life in Constantinople.) I do recommend Theodora, and know I will read it again and again.
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