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on 21 August 2004
This audiobook of Valerio Massimo Manfredi's "Alexander: Child of a Dream" was abridged by Keith Darvill to a 3 hour story recorded on 3 CDs and it's read by Derek Jacobi. It's the first volume of a trilogy: 1) Child of a Dream, 2) The Sands of Ammon, 3) The Ends of the Earth. I enjoyed Derek Jacobi's reading of 'Child of a Dream' so much that I intend to buy the rest of the trilogy.
The young Alexander, privileged product of a mating between a rich and powerful king, a beautiful and clever queen and (the queen believed) a god, seemed a very pleasant and caring youth, considering all the slaughter and mayhem he ordered and participated in as he grew and matured. His mother, Olympias, was an ambitious, ruthless dabbler in ritual and magic. His father, Philip, was King of Macedon, wise in military matters, a great warrior and leader of his people - fighting to unite all the Greek nations. His sister, Cleopatra, married her mother's brother (another Alexander). His tutor, Aristotle, later became the detective and, with the help of his nephew, investigated the murder of King Philip.
The satisfying thing about this sort of novel is that you can learn something at the same time as you're being entertained. I had to get out an atlas to find out where the characters were marching and where the action was taking place. It would have been better if a map of the area had been included with the audiobook. There was a map of Middle Earth in the BBC's Lord of the Rings radio play CD box, so I know it sometimes happens. In any case, I had an atlas fortunately and was able to follow the action across page 38.
I started listening to stories almost by accident about 2 years ago when I got a virus that put me in bed and made it hard to focus my eyes. Now my eyes can focus again and even though I read a lot of books, I still enjoy listening to stories. It's a different sort of pleasure. If you haven't ever listened to an audiobook, I suggest you try it. This one is pretty good. Derek Jacobi is one of the best readers. Other good readers you might also like to try are:
Alex Jennings who reads Robert Harris's 'Pompeii' (abridged);
Martin Shaw or Rob Inglis who read the Tolkien books (abridged and unabridged);
Philip Pullman reads his own 'His Dark Materials' trilogy (unabridged);
Douglas Adams reads his own 'Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy' books (5 of them, all unabridged).
A lot of books are available as audiobooks now and I've only come across one so far, that I haven't liked.
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on 30 September 2002
I found the writing very stilted, though (as has been said) this could be the fault of the translator. I had the impression of a historian wanting to show off his knowledge, and found no real enjoyment in the tone or phraseology of the book. Fortunately, this doesn't matter, as a good trilogy on Alexander has already been written. If you don't know the books, do read Mary Renault's 'Fire From Heaven', 'The Persian Boy' and 'Funeral Games'. (Gore Vidal called them something like 'a magnificent creation and re-creation of the life of Alexander'.) I am currently reading 'The Persian Boy' for the umpteenth time - in it, I think Renault found her most mature voice.
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on 25 October 2003
Underneath the title of this book is printed 'Huge international bestseller'. Having read it through I am at a loss as to how it has acheived this status.
The first thing that struck me was the simplistic and faulty prose. At some points it tried to be poetic while at others it was very basic. The lack of depth in writing leads to poorly developed characters which in turn strips the story of its heart. It will undoubtedly be claimed that the original language version is better and that it has simply lost some of the flow in translation. While this may be, to some extent, true I do not believe that that alone is reason enough for the lack of passion conveyed in the story.
The tale of Alexander's life is however a fascinating one and many of the bare facts are laid down in the book as Alexander grows up to become King and lead an army into Asia. Although it can never be entirely factual Manfredi does his best to stick to history and this is where I found the book to be more satisfying. The politics and warfare of the period are much more adequately told and I do now have a yearning to know more.
All in all this book is neither particularly bad nor particularly good. It is maybe a reason for historians to write history books and leave novellists to write novels. There are reasons to read this book and I did not feel as though I had wasted my time in reading it but neither was I rushing into the second in the series. I will read the next book to find out how Alexander's journey continues but I will be hoping that he becomes a more interesting character as he grows older.
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on 4 January 2016
This historical novel traces the story of Alexander the Great during his formative years , from his birth and childhood at Pella and his education uinder the tutelage of Aristotle at Mieza. It sets out an extremely sympathetic portrayal of Alexander , as outlined by his rescue of the girl Leptine from the hellish slave camps of Mount Pangaion , to his devotion to his friends and his love for his horse Bucephalas and his dog Peritas.
Even the complete destruction by the Macedonians of Thebes , is presented as being undertkane reluctantly by Alexander (and forced on him by his advisors and allies).
I liked the imagery of the dreams and their where moments of page-turning action and passion , such as his confrontation with his father and courtiers at his father's third wedding.

Some of the characters are better developed than others , such as the servant girl Lepantine and Alexander's friend and secretary to King Phillip , Eumenes.
Manfredi leaves little doubt as to his suspicion that it was Alexander's mother Olympias who was behing the assasination of King Phillip.
All in all, despite a few glitches and slower moments , it flows well , and I particularly found the four maps at the front to be helpful in following the narrative.
Research into events , people and palces has been thourough.
In this first volume we read of the campaigns of Phillip and later of Alexander in Greece and the Balkans.
This volume concludes with a pact Alexander makes with his uncle King Alexander of Epirus (who has married Alexander's beautiful sister Cleopatra) that Alexander of Macedon will conquer the east and the King of Epirus will conquer the west.
Bear in mind this is an English translation of the original Italian.
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on 10 December 2001
A huge disappointment. This Alexander is badly researched and, on top of that, either badly translated or badly written.
The research quality shows up in all sorts of anachronisms such as the scene where Alexander "shakes the hand" of the Fleet commander taking him to Asia. But the top is certainly the moment where one of the princes in the royal household "produces a written note from the royal doctor that he is sick" to be excused from participating in a hunt. How likely is this ?
Then there is the language. Alexander vacillates between Shakespearean hero ("Fare thee well, my sister") and British tough guy (such as calling his comrades "lads").
If you're looking for a model of how to handle Greek myths and history go for the first part of "In the shape of a boar" by Lawrence Norfolk.
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Few authors can be better equipped to write about the history of ancient Greece and Rome than Valerio Massimo Manfredi. Professor of archaeology at the the university of Milan, he has carried out many excavations and expeditions in the Mediterranean region. He has produced many factual books on historical matters, mainly military and has still found the time to write several novels and this is one of the best of them.

This book is the first of a triology about probably the greatest warrior and general who has ever lived, bearing in mind that Alexander died at an age when most men are only just starting to make their mark in life. Alexander is of course one of histories most colourful and well know character. Even people with little or not interest in ancient history will have heard of Alexander, a charismatic and larger than life figure.

This first book is the story of a boy born to royal parents. His father, Philip of Macedon, a great warrior and king in his own right and his mother, Philip's alluring queen, Olympias. Alexander was a handsome boy with a quick and ready wit and great intelligence that was nurtured by his tutor, Aristotle and with friends like Ptolemy and Hephaiston Alexander was moulded into a man who was going to conquer the then known world.
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on 17 August 2001
Valerio Manfredi tries very hard to capture the essence of Alexander. However he does not quite make it! The characters are mainly two dimensional and lack the fire and depth of Mary Renaults Alexander triology.
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on 22 May 2006
If you enjoyed any of the historical writings of Bernard Cornwell - particularly the trilogies - then you will not be disappointed with this, the first book, about the rise to manhood of one of the greatest hsitorical characters. It really is a fine translation from the Italian author Manfredi. I couldn't put the book down and would highly recommend!!
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on 30 August 2001
The pace of this book is quite awe-inspiring, not only from the perspective of what Alexander accomplished, but also from the manner in which Manfredi builds and maintains the atmosphere throughout. Having perfectly set the scene and built the characters in the first volume The Sands of Ammon sets off full throttle into the next stage of Alexander's epic tale. Yes a historical document might have been more detailed on some aspects, but I felt Manfredi has succeeded in striking a balance between conveying the exhilaration and magnitude of the campaign, telling a great tale and keeping it within a very readable trilogy. The end result is an adventure that were it not based so much on fact would probably seem implausible. An addictive read. For me buying the next volume is not an option - it's a must.
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on 20 October 2015
as a fan of historical fiction I really loved this book. I have read the trilogy already some 10 years ago but reading it again I enjoyed it all over again.
the first chapter tells the story of young Alexander, how he grew up being teached by his father Philippus who already was a great conqueror himself but in the end couldn't maintain the reunion with the Greek states.
Alexander himself was thought values of Aristotle himself and you really can see how he develops as a charracter from a smart and young boy into an intelligent and also sometimes conqueror without any mercy.
a must read for fans of historical fiction and ancient Greece
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