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Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen [Paperback]

Lucy Hughes-Hallett
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

19 Aug 2011

From the author of ‘The Pike’ – winner of the 2013 Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction – a compelling story of heroism told through eight famous lives that span from Achilles to Sir Francis Drake.

On 12 September 2001, a group of people were photographed near the ruins of the World Trade Centre holding up a banner that read WE NEED HEROES NOW. In Lucy Hughes-Hallett's brilliant new book she explores that need through the careers of eight heroes. Her subjects – Achilles, Odysseus, Alcibiades, Cato, El Cid, Francis Drake, Wallenstein, Garibaldi – were not necessarily good (quite the reverse in some cases), but they were all great, charismatic enough to persuade those around them that they were capable of doing what no one else alive could do.

Beginning beneath the walls of Troy and ending in 1930s Europe when the cult of the hero was turning politically lethal, this is a book about mortality and dictatorship, about money and sorcery, about seduction (sexual and political) and mass-hysteria. Above all, it is a sequence of extraordinary stories, each of them shedding a different and startling light on the all-but-universal craving for an invincible champion, an all-powerful redeemer, a superman, and each of them featuring a character so glamorous or intimidating that his contemporaries considered him either a devil or a god.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (19 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857026861
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857026863
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 605,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lucy Hughes-Hallett's latest book is The Pike - Gabriele d'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War, which has won the three most prestigious prizes for non-fiction - the Samuel Johnson Prize 2013, the Costa Biography Award, and the Duff Cooper Prize. It is shorlisted for the Paddy Power Political Biography of the Year.
Lucy's previous books are Heroes: A History of Hero Worship and Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams, and Distortions (Fawcett Prize, Emily Toth Award). She has written on books, theatre and television for most of the leading British newspapers. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

She lives in London.

Product Description

Review

'A magnificent, cleverly argued book.' John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph

'Vivid and highly readable, here are biographies that thrill, enthral and dazzle.' Observer

'A bold, witty and thought-provoking book.' Daily Telegraph

'Both rich in material and riveting to read.' Antonia Fraser, Sunday Times

'A compendious and stupendous book'
Independent on Sunday

'[Heroes] bring(s) history to life. It offers the guilty pleasure of wondering at the undemocratic wildness of eight great men.’Guardian

About the Author

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions and Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen. Cleopatra won the Fawcett Prize and the Emily Toth Award. Lucy Hughes-Hallett is a highly respected critic who has reviewed for all the major British newspapers. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By T. R. Alexander TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
This was a very interesting book including information about some heroes I hadn't heard of and some I had but didn't know much about. Each of the heroes detailed (Achilles, Alcibiades, Cato, El Cid, Francis Drake, Wallenstein Garibaldi and Odysseus) is done so in a relatively detailed way, going through their lives and detailing the important events of their careers. Each hero is also presented in chronological order with comments on the similarities of each hero to those detailed previously. The exception to both of these things is the final hero Odysseus who is hardly mentioned throughout his section, the author seemingly using this section to pull together how various heroes changed after their death and how they were used and altered by previous generations. Altogether the book was very interesting and informative although it does tend to trail off towards the end.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Odd & not entirely satisfying 27 Oct 2013
By Mr M.R.Watkinson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
As with another reviewer, I don't think the author could quite make up her mind what she was doing with this book. "It is rooted in ambivalence", she says in the foreword; although it's not what she means by the phrase, the result is a book whose purpose is not entirely clear. The very brief author's blurb says she is (or was at publication) a critic for the Sunday Times. That the other book listed therein is called "Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions", to go with "Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen" should tell you a great deal about her journalistic writing style. What qualifies her to write historical biographies, to psycho-analyze (she frequently lugs in the likes of Freud), is less clear.

Ultimately, while she's readable enough, the book is unsatisfying. Taking a couple of examples from the chapter on El Cid, in a paragraph talking of the "arduous training" of warriors, she finishes with "...vivdly embodies the terrifying gaiety of the easy-conscienced killer."; all very colourful. Also incorrect and, in fact, she contradicts herself a few pages later. First, she notes that most traditions hold the El Cid was a common man, the son of a miller, so he is unlikely to have spent his early life in martial training; secondly, when she speaks of El Cid capturing many knights & ransoming them, certainly common practice in the later Middle Ages & not consonant with labelling them all as "killers". The second example from that chapter is the repeated mention that pulling a man's beard is an "intolerable", "unforgivable" insult. That may or may not be true but, as with too many statements in the book, she gives no indication of where she gets this little tidbit from.

You're left wondering what the book is about.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better 25 Aug 2005
By Steve
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author does not appear to have decided exactly what she wants to do here. The foreword says that these stories have relevance to modern times, and invites the reader to make parallels with current events. To me, this is an interesting but ultimately pointless exercise, as when writing of her nominated heroes (who were actually a fairly unpleasant bunch) Hughes-Hallett persists in making some often tenuous links between them and their achievements, discounting the fact that each was the product of their times, and as such, subject to the social structure of the day. As stand alone bigraphies, they would have been much better, but due to the writing style, in the end, I found for example, that when reading about Garibaldi, I did not want him compared to Achilles, Cato or others and skipped increasingly non-relevant passages. If you want to find out about each of the "heroes", I recommend you search for better books than this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Historically clarifying & entertaining 17 Jan 2014
By Bahoover - Published on Amazon.com
If you enjoy reading accounts of individuals and historical circumstances that seem to be ever-repeating in man's history, then you should really enjoy this book. Hughes-Hallet has done an admirable job of consolidating a tremendous amount of historical reference material into an enlightening and entertaining book on the cult of personality. A good number of the historical presumptions of these individuals and how historians have rewritten their lasting images into less-than-historically-accurate myth are laid bare. Worth getting for the chapters on Sir Francis Drake and Wallenstein alone....
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