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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elusive and enthralling.
This fascinating novel may seem at first to be a well-written romance or frothy bit of historical fiction. Alison's style from the outset is sensuously heavy, filled with lush impressions from an exotic area "on the farthest coast of the Black Sea, in the corner of the maps where sea monsters coiled...." The Roman poet Ovid is in self-exile here, having offended the...
Published on 4 Sept. 2003 by Mary Whipple

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not my favourite
I did not find it a particularly easy read. There is not much in the way of a plot, its all enshrouded in mystery and flamboyant writing
Published 20 months ago by Angela Miriam Davis


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elusive and enthralling., 4 Sept. 2003
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Love-artist (Hardcover)
This fascinating novel may seem at first to be a well-written romance or frothy bit of historical fiction. Alison's style from the outset is sensuously heavy, filled with lush impressions from an exotic area "on the farthest coast of the Black Sea, in the corner of the maps where sea monsters coiled...." The Roman poet Ovid is in self-exile here, having offended the moralistic Emperor Augustus with his erotic book, The Art of Love, and we come to empathize with him through his interior monologues. The dense imagery familiar in Ovid's poetry shines here, not only in his description of Pontus, but also of the beguiling Xenia, a priestess and practitioner of magic.
When Xenia returns to Rome with Ovid, however, the exoticism and romanticism become less an end in themselves and more a part of the psychological atmosphere, and the author begins actively to solicit the reader's curiosity. Ovid, with Augustus's granddaughter Julia as his patroness and Xenia as his inspiration, begins work on his play Medea, from which only two lines have survived to the present day. Here the novel is less straightforward and less overtly romantic, acquiring a sense of great mystery, consistent with the mystery both of Ovid's tragic play and of the Medea legend itself.
Love, jealousy, revenge, rage, the fear of rejection, and the desire for immortality, so vividly exemplified in the tragedy of the legendary Medea, find their parallels in life here, as Xenia, Ovid, and Julia play out their triangle of misunderstandings. Omitting all the usual narrative signals that help to mold the reader's thinking, Alison reveals instead what Xenia, Ovid, and Julia, are thinking and feeling, leaving it up to the reader to figure out what has happened to these characters that makes them feel and act the way they do. The drama of this remarkable novel comes fully to life, and the reader begins to feel that s/he is participating in the inexorable falling action of a real, classical tragedy, its ending elusive. Mary Whipple
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4.0 out of 5 stars A web of intrigue, misunderstanding, passion and metamorphosis., 16 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Love-artist (Paperback)
The Love Artist - Jane Alison
Historical fiction/mythical fiction/romance

I picked this up for an online course about Historical Fiction and it covers the basis well enough. Set in the period of Emperor Augustus it charts the mysterious exile of the poet Ovid and his missing Medea manuscript. Exiled to Tomis on the Black Sea Ovid meets the mysterious Xenia, who is a good deal more than she first appears, witch, seer, almost ethereal in her ways, but at the same time very innocent and troubled.

This story contains so much - love, jealousy, intrigue, the quest for immortality and most important - metamorphosis. These themes are interwoven, metamorphosis changes love to jealous, obsession to failure, politics to hatred, and past and future all cleverly done with reference to Ovid's own Metamorphosis. Almost bordering on fantasy or magical realism it must be remembered this is set in a time when magic and was considered real and our own beliefs and concepts should be put aside when reading this, to truly enjoy it.

A lot of research went into the book, including visits to modern Rome and retracing footsteps, visits to museums, reading of primary archives, including Ovid himself and it shows. Although in places it is not a hundred per cent accurate the overall descriptions are sound, building a vivid world in both Tomis and the more decadent and corrupt Rome.

The love affair was intense but did meander a little towards the end, it was interesting to see the shift however, from the happiness in Tomis and early on in Rome to the jealously and distrust at the end. As Ovid's work culminates so does their affair. Each is the other's muse but in many ways each is unaware. They are looking for immortality, the quest to find the essence of it. Ovid wants to know if his work will live for ever and Xenia will not tell him, she wants to find the essence of life and he is repelled by this. Their affair is complex, and ultimately destructive as was the history of Rome itself.

There were a few weaknesses - there were quite a few repeated phrases, which worked for a while but did get a little irritating, I also found the ending a little unconvincing - there was a build up to a plan and then the epilogue turns it on its head. The ending also seemed a little rushed.
A bit more could have been explained about the relationship between Julia and Ovid and why Julia behaved as she did. This was covered but almost as an afterthought. A bit more from her point of view would have been nice. A little more about the role of magic, and why it was illegal would also have added.

Overall 4 stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The book was in good condition when it arrived, 27 May 2015
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This review is from: The Love-artist (Hardcover)
The book was in good condition when it arrived.... I have delved into it a little and am looking forward to reading more.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not my favourite, 28 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Love-artist (Paperback)
I did not find it a particularly easy read. There is not much in the way of a plot, its all enshrouded in mystery and flamboyant writing
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The Love-artist
The Love-artist by Jane Alison (Hardcover - 4 Feb. 2002)
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