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The Praise Singer Paperback – 22 Feb 1990


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (22 Feb. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140113002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140113006
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,336,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"[Renault's] historical novels . . . are among the finest ever written" (The Washington Post Book World)

"A song of praise, a work of love, a serene, deliberate book, full of wisdom, rich in character, incident and description" (Wall Street Journal) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

In a masterful novel that vividly recreates the world of Ancient Greece, Mary Renault tells the story of Simonides, an ugly boy destined to create beauty through his extraordinary poetic talent. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 25 May 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want a taste of what living in ancient Greece was really like then Renault is the writer to read. In this novel she eschews the heroics of Alexander and Theseus and instead focuses on the little-known epic poet/bard Simonides who sings Homer as he travels around the Greek world. He witnesses great events and introduces us to the people who make things happen, but he himself is content to sing of life rather than drive it.

Perhaps Renault's least popular Greek novel, this is a quiet, subtle book that somehow still manages to haunt you once it's finished. Superb.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. T. J. Doughan on 15 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
The least popular of Renault's books? Perhaps, because it may be regarded as the most intelligent (which is saying a lot). It is shot through with a restrained irony which is a long way short of "knowingness". The picture of a Greek civilisation moving gradually from an oral to a literate culture combines with speculation on the artist's relationship with the state in a way that has things to say to us. Also, as always with Renault, it's a very good story.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M.I. VINE VOICE on 5 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
For some reason, this proved to be the least popular of Mary Renault's works. This has nothing to do with its quality, but more I suspect with the unfamiliarity of the main character, Simonides (6th Cent BCE), some of whose work still survives. Also unfamiliar is the concept of praise-singing. In early Greece, competitors in the main games (not just the Olympics; there were many others)were escorted home in great honour, often accompanied by choral odes, specially commissioned for the event. Mentioned in The Praise Singer is Simonides' later contemporary, Pindar, probably the finest such composer known. One copy of his (Pindar's) work survived and was discovered only relatively recently. It's spectacular work, in places reaching the spiritual level. The only regrets are that the remaining work is incomplete and, more so, that the music accompanying the odes hasn't survived. And it was from others, such as Simonides himself, that Pindar would have learned his craft. Another point about Simonides: he was the author of the brief, but spine-tingling epitaph dedicated to the 300 Spartans and their king, who held back the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BCE for just long enough for a stronger defence to be arranged farther south. As with Mary Renault always, this isn't dry history, but told in the first person as if through a modern voice-recorder.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. D. Welsh TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Praise Singer" was Mary Renault's second-last novel, published five years before her death. Its sparse, restrained elegance embodies a return to simpler, more focused themes after the lavish splendour of Fire From Heaven and The Persian Boy, her two novels about the life of Alexander the Great. Perhaps the closest parallel among her other novels is The Mask Of Apollo, which follows the career of the Athenian actor Nikeratos. Like Nikeratos, Simonides of Keos (protagonist of "The Praise Singer"), is a lifetime servant of the god Apollo, who leaves home as a boy to travel the Greek world while learning his vocation from the master to whom he is apprenticed. But unlike Nikeratos, Simonides (who lived approximately 556-468 BC) was a real person - one of the greatest poets and singers of his time. Perhaps the most memorable of his works (if indeed he wrote it) was the simple epitaph to the Spartan soldiers who died defending the pass of Thermopylae against the Persian king Xerxes' huge army. In Renault's translation, it reads, "Tell them in Lakedaimon, passer-by, that here, obedient to their word, we lie". (Typically, she follows it immediately by Simonides' mental reaction: "They'll remember that").Read more ›
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