In her previous books, Vicki Len put listeners in the sandals of now obsolete laborers, ranging from funeral clowns to armpit pluckers, and untangled the twisted threads of superstition and science in antiquity. Now, in this book of astonishing true tales of love and sex in long-ago Greece, Rome, and other cultures around the Mediterranean, she opens the doors to shadowy rooms and parts the curtains of decorum.
Len goes far beyond what we think we know about sex in ancient times, taking listeners on a randy tour of aphrodisiacs and anti-aphrodisiacs, contraception, nymphomania, bisexuality, cross-dressing, and gender-bending. She explains citizens' fear of hermaphrodites, investigates the stinging price paid for adultery despite the ease of divorce, introduces listeners to a surprising array of saucy pornographers, and even describes the eco-friendly dildos used by libidinous ancients. Love also gets its due, with true tales of the lifelong bonds between military men, history's first cougar and her devoted relationship with Julius Caesar, and the deification of lovers.
©2013 Vicki León (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
this is a fun book discussing historical conceptions of sex and sexuality. however unlike many books that tackle this subject it is not a drug affair, bit is rather a kind of romp through historical lives that never flags in interest color and humor.
It certainly covers the topic and does so as completely I think as one can for a lay audience, but there are also a number of chapters which are connected to the main theme by the most tenuous of threads. It's clear that there simply isn't enough information out there to fill a book (at least with a lay audience in mind) even including both myth and history.
Additionally, it could use a bit more rigor in what is being reported as truth. Whenever you deal with ancient sources, you need to be sure to point to what there is evidence for and what is written by someone with an ax to grind. It's been amazing to me in the recent years how much better podcasters are at saying where information comes from and what bias it may hold compared with those who write history books for popular consumption.
Those issues aside, the theme I feel the reader is intended to take away is, "Sex and love haven't always been viewed by people the way most people view them today." In this, the book is successful. Also, it certainly is spicy in the ways you'd want from a book of this title.
Even as well read (lay not academic) as I am on the time period, I still found things which were new and interesting and made me happy to have read this. It's worth reading as long as you are aware of its issues.
Levine's narration does a great job. His inflections keep the text interesting and he inserts the right emotion into each sentence. Looking at the other works he has done, it's clear he narrates a lot of romance novels, so he's not a bad choice considering the topic. However, I'm not about to dive into reading that of expertise. ;)
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