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The Persian Boy Paperback – 6 Nov 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (6 Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099463482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099463481
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

The second book in the Alexander The Great trilogy, now back in print after many years

About the Author

Mary Renault was educated at Clifton High School, Bristol and St Hugh's College, Oxford. Having completed nursing training in 1937 she wrote her first novel Promise of Love: her next three novels were written during off-time duty whilst serving in the war. In 1948 she went to live in South Africa but travelled widely. It was her trip to Greece and her visits to Corinth, Samos, Crete, Delos, Aeginia and other islands, as well as to Athens, Sounion and Marathon, that resulted in her brilliant historical reconstructions of Ancient Greece. Mary Renault died in 1983.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 25 May 2006
Format: Paperback
Renault's Alexander is one of the most complex and haunting fictional characters, and this book (the 2nd of the trilogy which began with Fire from Heaven and continues with Funeral Games)is probably the most accessible. It follows Alexander's last years of conquest in Persia and the East, and is told by Bagoas, the Persian eunuch who once served Darius, King of Kings, and so is won by Alexander along with the rest of Darius' kingdom and personal possessions.

The love that grows between Alexander and his 'Persian boy' is romaticised and stops just short of tipping over into Mills & Boon territory, but is effectively offset both by the parallel relationship with Hephaistion, and the military conquest of the East, the hardship and the conflicts that it engenders amongst the native Macedonians who have been away from home for over 10 years.

Renault does a fabulous job of integrating the ancient sources while never letting them inhibit her imagination in the slightest, and 'her' Alexander has been hugely influential in the way that he is received and understood today. Not that I'm claiming that this is great history - it's not and isn't supposed to be. But it is great fiction.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Gillingwater on 4 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the most moving book I have ever read.
It tells the tale of the later parts of Alexander the Great's conquests. The whole book is written from the perspective of his eunuch Bagoas. Renault has ignored the historical debate regarding this individual's existence and has instead made him a window into the soul of a magnificant man. The story is an emotional roller coaster, we along with Bagoas fall in love with Alexander. We watch him achieve victory after victory and fall into the depths of despair at his failures.
Renault has made Alexander accessable to all. Those with no knowledge of ancient history will access Alexander as easily as scholars. The events of Alexnder's life are made vividly real to all. We mourn with Alexander when his life long companion Hephaestion dies. We cheer when he wins, worry when falters and mourn when he dies.
This is Mary Renault's best and most moving novel. The triliogy is fantastic but this is the most powerful and moving of the stories.
A must for everyone.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. Bryant-Quinn on 8 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
The second volume in her Alexander trilogy, Mary Renault's historical novel *The Persian Boy* must surely be ranked as one of her finest books. Many of the reviews which greeted its original (delayed) publication, reflecting the mores of the time, were openly and unambiguously hostile. As may be expected, this disapproval by and large centred on what by any objective measure must be considered the very discreet treatment of a possible physical relationship between Alexander of Macedon and the young eunuch presumed in the sources to be his *eromenos*, the Persian Bagoas. Interestingly, given the gaps in the historical record concerning this individual, even recent students of Alexander's life and career have adopted a predominantly pejorative attitude towards Bagoas. Whatever the truth about him, it seems that Alexander's Persian boy continues to cause unease among those whom, as Mary Renault would put it, such thoughts disturb. The non-judgmental among us, however, may rightly view *The Persian Boy* as one of Renault's most accomplished works and, within the parameters of her own interest, surely also a statement of personal significance to the author. Its cyclical structure, thematic resonances, beautifully observed psychological tensions and human dilemmas, unfold in what Dylan Thomas called a `colour of saying' which is at times the match of anything she wrote.
As other reviewers have noted, the book is not without its flaws, both artistic and historical, and Mary Renault herself was fully aware of these. But because *The Persian Boy* is not simply an historical novel but a safe place of generous beauty created by an author of not inconsiderable courage-and this in the teeth of contemporary distaste for such themes-other critical standards should also be applied.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Miannie on 1 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is one of those books that I have re-read every now and then during the past 15 or so years. I think what makes me return to it is the contrast between how Alexander and Bagoas are portrayed in this book and how Alexander and Bagoas (particularly Bagoas) are portrayed elsewhere. The very premise of it is interesting: Renault writes from the point of view of a character who, if you approach Alexander through historical sources rather than fictional ones, is little more than a footnote. Bagoas is Persian, he's a eunuch, he was Darius' boy, then Alexander's. That's all we know, really. But Renault uses him, quite cleverly at times, to put Alexander into what feels like almost a contemporary context. I particularly like how Bagoas is embarrassed by the aspects of Alexander's character that probably, for a modern reader, would be the most sympathetic: his laid-back relationship to his soldiers, his refusal to surround himself with too much luxury, his reasonably decent attitude towards women. Bagoas is worried about how Alexander's simplicity makes him appear to the peoples he makes his.
Hephaistion, the Patroclus to Alexander's Akilleus, is given a very low-key role. He makes rare appearances, but manages to cast a bit of light on Bagoas, in much the same way as Bagoas casts a light on Alexander. And it's easy to understand Bagoas' jealousy and occasional resentment towards him, though with time, this grows to a very reluctant admiration and respect, I think.

This book is best read as a book about Bagoas, rather than a book about Alexander - though it's easy enough to forget that sometimes (at least it is for me). It's not necessarily the best example of historical fiction I've read, but it's enjoyable and well executed. I always enjoy reading it, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
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