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Fire from Heaven: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) Paperback – 7 Aug 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (7 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844089576
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844089574
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 147,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Renault's skill is in immersing us in their world, drawing us into its strangeness, its violence and beauty . . . a literary conjuring trick . . . so convincing and passionately conjured (The Times)

Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us (Hilary Mantel)

The Alexander Trilogy contains some of Renault's finest writing. Lyrical, wise, compelling: the novels are a wonderful imaginative feat (Sarah Waters)

All my sense of the ancient world - its values, its style, the scent of its wars and passions - comes from Mary Renault. I turned to writing historical fiction because of something I learned from Renault: that it lets you shake off the mental shackles of your own era, all the categories and labels, and write freely about what really matters to you (Emma Donoghue)

Mary Renault's portraits of the ancient world are fierce, complex and eloquent, infused at every turn with her life-long passion for the Classics. Her characters live vividly both in their own time, and in ours (Madeline Miller)

The Alexander Trilogy stands as one of the most important works of fiction in the 20th century . . . it represents the pinnacle of [Renault's] career . . . Renault's skill is in immersing us in their world, drawing us into its strangeness, its violence and beauty. It's a literary conjuring trick like all historical fiction - it can only ever be an approximation of the truth. But in Renault's hands, the trick is so convincing and passionately conjured. (Antonia Senior The Times)

Book Description

In the first novel of her stunning trilogy, Mary Renault vividly imagines the life of Alexander the Great, the charismatic leader whose drive and ambition created a legend.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By GC on 29 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Fire from Heaven is the first book in Mary Renault's excellent Alexander the Great trilogy. It covers Alexander's childhood in Macedon (before he became 'Great') and although it is fiction, it is so convincing that it reads like history. In my opinion, it provides many psychological insights - not least the relationship with his mother - that help account for the historical Alexander's personality and behaviour. I am a great fan of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but I honestly believe that Renault is the greatest ever exponent of historical fiction. Although this book can be read and enjoyed without much knowledge of either Alexander or the 4th Century BC Greek world, a recommended companion is Robin Lane Fox's biography of Alexander.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This version of the life of Alexander the Great is a great piece of work in its own 'write'. Miss Renault shows his single mindedness, his charisma and makes you care about him. You marvel that he survived an archetype family from Hell with a crazy witch of a mother manipulating him on one hand, a sex mad father on the other. However neither are allowed to be cliches and from the subtlety of the writing you gather, or I did, that part of the mother's problem was she loved her husband but was frustrated in that she could not control him and thus resorted to trying to use her son as a weapon against her husband. In the story she claims her husband was not Alexander's father but I think you get a clear impression from the writer's narrative that indeed he truly was and that it was from his father Alexander gained his military skill. There is a feeling of real affection on the father's part, an affection he could not adequately express. It makes the whole tragedy more poignant.
Miss Renault conveys a wealth of detail in the people and politics, the daily life and customs of a remote time in history, but one which resonates with us still. These people have left mere mortal history and entered into the eternal life of mythology.
I thoroughly recommend this as an outstanding read.
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Format: Paperback
This is the first novel of Renault's Alexander Trilogy (continued in The Persian Boy and Funeral Games) and in some ways is the most successful. We see Alexander grow from a 7-year old boy conscious of the tensions between his mother and father, through his education by Aristotle, early relationships, with a girl to prove his parents wrong about his sexuality, and with Hephaistion who remains his life-long soul-mate and friend, to his arrival on the Macedonian throne.

The emphasis is on how the experiences of the child form the man who becomes leader of the known world, but Renault is subtle and understated rather than thrusting moral lessons on us. She evokes the 4th century BCE Macedonian world in all its cruelty and alien splendour and yet never leaves her readers behind: she is erudite without ever being earnest or overtly scholarly.

This is a elegiac novel, far removed from the action-packed but rather souless tales of Manfredi or the overtly modern and masculine take of Pressfield: beautifully written, haunted and haunting, it will stay with you for a long time.
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