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Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore Hardcover – 3 Jun 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (3 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844082156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844082155
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 3.2 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 173,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stella Duffy was born in London and grew up in New Zealand. She has written thirteen novels, over fifty short stories, and ten plays. In addition to her writing work, she is also a theatre director and performer. She lives in London.

Product Description

Book Description

* A brilliant new novel from the author of Singling out the Couples, State of Happiness and Parallel Lies

About the Author

Stella Duffy is the author of seven novels and the Saz Martin crime series. She has published over thirty short stories, many feature articles, and also writes for radio and theatre. Stella Duffy was born in the UK, grew up in New Zealand and now lives in London. In addition to her writing work she is an actor and improviser.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 27 Sep 2010
Format: Hardcover
... but like some of the other reviewers here I found this really disappointing and quite a lifeless read. Theodora seems like a character just made for fiction but Duffy doesn't manage to make her live. The greater part of this book is 'told' in page after page of authorial exposition rather than being 'shown' to us in dramatic scenes and dialogue, something which always makes me feel like I'm being held at arm's length from the book and the story it's trying to tell. That combined with an almost palpable self-consciousness that this is 'historical' fiction made the entire project feel artificial and very thin.

Theodora comes to life far more in Robert Graves' old novel Count Belisarius (Penguin Classics) and in the main extant source Procopius' The Secret History (Penguin Classics).

I really wanted to enjoy this book and was looking forward to a modern and female reinterpretation of a figure who might have been mis-represented by hostile chroniclers, but sadly this book managed, for me, to both dilute the wayward, transgressive Theodora of Procopius and yet not substitute anything more lifelike in its stead - very definately a missed opportunity.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 Jun 2010
Format: Hardcover
I think the most important thing in any book where the main character is also the title of the novel; you have to make that character reader friendly, why are you going to get through 300+ pages if you don't like the star of the book. Theodora definitely is the star of `Theodora' (that sounds a bit wrong, you get what I mean). From the death of her father at five killed by his own favourite bear of his trade, which we see through flashbacks of a kind, and the fact as the plainer and less talented in dancing and singing sister of three Theodora has a slight underdog status from the opening of the book and you feel for her, you side with her, you like her.

However do not let first impressions fool you as Theodora is determined, I want to say gutsy but it's a bit of a cliché, and what she lacks in some talents she makes up with more, her mind and her body tend to win people over though not necessarily in that order. We follow her journey from the dark underbelly of Constantinople and its prostitution, through the theatre and onwards (I don't want to give too much away) as she breaks the mould to become the woman no one would believe she could. There is a twist in the middle as she follows her heart rather than her head and exposes another side to her we have not seen before, you like her more.

The book isn't just about Theodora though and there are a few characters that deserve there own mention too because characters are something that Stella Duffy does exceptionally well. There is the tough loving teacher and eunuch Menander, the butter wouldn't melt (though watch out) Chrysomallo, the dashing Hecebolus and the delightfully wicked Euphemia.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eleni TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a fictional biography inspired by the tempestuous life of Byzantine empress Theodora. The story starts with Theodora's training as a child dancer and follows her from her difficult childhood to her success as an actress and her marriage to Justinian. Sadly, the story ends there and the book only covers the 'actress' and 'whore' part of the title, which is a shame as her reign as an empress was one of the most significant and adventurous times of Byzantine history.

Byzantine empress Theodora was one the most influential women in history, a remarkable woman whose fascinating life is the ideal subject for a historical novel. Sadly, this historical novel doesn't do its heroine justice. The novel is not gripping at all, as it is written like a boring documentary, with long tedious narratives, followed by short simplistic dialogues.

The characters are not believable or likable which makes the reader unable to sympathise with them or care about what happens to them. Especially Theodora is underdeveloped, one-dimensional and just plain boring. Duffy's Theodora is a heartless slut, whose only concern is to survive. She is presented as a ruthless whore who treats all her relationships with men as prostitution, including her relationship with Justinian, and only has romantic feelings for her fictional female sexual partners.

The greatest lost opportunity is the lack of atmosphere. Byzantium is the ideal backdrop for a novel as it combined the culture, images, sounds, and smells of both the West and the East. Sadly, the Byzantium of this book is as colourless and boring as everything else in the novel; even the extended descriptions cannot add to the atmosphere as they are soulless as the descriptions of a bad documentary.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By E. Barton on 31 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
Stella Duffy is above everything a great story teller, whether it be a Saz detective novel, or a literary novel. Here she turns her skills to a historical context. This is NOT a biography of Theodora, equally its not a historical novel as some in that genre where the author gets bogged down in the research that has taken them months and is determined to use as much of it as possible in their novel - so much so that it gets in the way of the story and the characterisation of the key protagonists. THEODORA is a good story first and foremost - a stonking good read - with characters who you want to get to know, in particular Theodora who jumps off the page. The history is there as a backdrop (Stella has clearly done her research) and just enough to help us to understand the world Theodora lives in. So if you like a good story, with real characters this is for you.
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