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

3.9 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 787,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A witty, moving, sexy novel that bursts with as much colour and excitement as the city of Constantinople itself ... a joyous and energetic read (Financial Times)

Theodora is exquisitely summoned by Duffy ... a story rich in colour, texture and taste, told in a fleet-footed narrative (Daily Telegraph)

A splendid subject, traced with energy and much juicy detail (Sunday Times) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

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

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An amazing woman, in a brutal era:the decline of the Roman Empire; yet a triumph of the human spirit. It is incredible that the Hagia Sophia still stands,if somewhat altered, incredible architecture for the age. Full of intrigue,treachery,murder,yet still a love story. I highly recommend this.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Theodora, from her early days to her rise as the consort of Justinian. Together they work to hold the faltering Roman Empire from crumbling under the strain from the newest power player in town - the early Christian Church. Plots, riots, intrigue and a surprisingly warm and tender love story all add to make this a terrific book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent. This book takes the vaguendetails we have for the Byzantine Empress Theodora and turns her into a flesh & blood heroine. The basic details of her life including her time as an actress / prostitute are historically accurate and Stella Duffy manages to create an engaging heroine with some good lines. Only 4 stars because I think that it could have been a more substantial book...ut at least I have the purple shroud to look forward to.
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Format: Paperback
I don't usually like historical fiction. Some that set stories in historical times/places but invent characters I like, but not so much the ones that attempt to create fictional characters out of historical figures. The characters rarely come to life in the book, mostly because, you know, they're dead outside the book. Historical fiction also tends to be too heavy on setting for my taste. It's as if the authors think the readers need to be absolutely convinced of the historical accuracy of every minute detail from the architecture of the period to the names and dates of every single place and event (in fairness, some readers do want this I suppose, but I don't. If I want that kind of detail, I'll read nonfictional accounts). Finally, most historical fiction of this sort is by and about men. Which is fine, I suppose, since most historical accounts available to authors are also by and about men - the his story of history - and since most of the political figures that these books tend to portray were men. But the women in the books are often, at best, portrayed as secondary characters, at worst, as completely without agency (and yes, this is often true of contemporary fiction - and everything else - as well).

So those are the main reasons I don't like historical fiction. Now let me completely contradict myself by telling you that I absolutely loved this book about Theodora, Empress of the (Byzantine) Roman Empire. I'm not going to tell you about the book itself but about what it is that I loved about it. When I'm reading a great book, there always comes a point when I know that it's a choice between put it down now or read until you finish it. I reached that point around 1:00 a.m. and knew I should go to bed and wasn't disillusioning myself by thinking I'd read just a few more pages.
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