I bought this book, to be frank, for three reasons:
- It had a beautiful cover, isn’t it?
- It smelt beautiful
- I got this big huge hardback for Rs 100
In return, I stumbled into a four day electrifying experience of a taut, brilliantly written novel.
From http://karenessex.com/stealingathena.html, the plot synopsis:
At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the 21-year-old newly wedded Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin, a Scottish heiress and celebrated beauty, enchanted the power brokers of the Ottoman Empire, … her husband’s audacious plan to deconstruct the Parthenon and bring its magnificent sculptures to England. Two millennia earlier, Aspasia, a female philosopher and courtesan who presided with her lover, the visionary politician Pericles, … at the center of vehement opposition to his ambitious plan to construct the most exquisite monuments the world had ever seen.
In parallel stories that resonate hauntingly, Aspasia witnesses the dramatic events that lead to the construction and dedication of the Parthenon, and Mary Nisbet witnesses that same magnificent building’s deconstruction and demise.
The parallel plots are insanely similar, both women continued to awe me with their strength of character. I admit, I’m a sucker for female centric plots; but this book would be liked by either gender equally. The novel is undoubtedly long and kind of heavy to carry around; but even though I hadn’t heard of the author, any of the characters, or the Elgin Marbles themselves; my nose was glued to the pages right from the start. I will try and get my hands on the rest of this woman’s works. I’m caught up with Aspasia, she will remain in my head a fair while.
Quote: Here was a man who was not, at least at this moment, using the supreme power that he held over me to bully me. With the exception of my father, I had not had the acquaintance of such an individual. Even the wise Thales lorded his superior status over me, always making me grateful for being allowed to listen to his words. I looked at Perikles’ hands, which were surprisingly slender, with long tapered fingers and clean square nails. They were altogether delicate for a man who had distinguished himself as a general. I decided that I could imagine, in fact would invite, those hands laying themselves on my body.
“I am not lying. I have never done this before. But I am willing to learn.”