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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.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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.
1 of 11 people found this review helpful
The world of the Minatour and the bull dancers is brought from ancient frescoes into the immediacy of our present-day imagination. A wonderful re-telling and reading of the classic legend. All honour to both author and reader.