Review of Stealing Athena by Karen Essex
by Karen Essex
The first half of the book was a little erotic for my tastes, but it's fine if you like that sort of thing. It just seemed like a page didn't go by without mentioning sex or arousal or issuing some sort of innuendo. This calmed down toward the end of the book, by which time I actually found myself empathizing with Mary quite a bit
The book appealed to my dormant desire to learn more about the Elgin marbles. Essex writes with confidence and an intimate tone that makes the period and the characters come alive. I quite enjoyed her portrayal of Mary and Aspasia's thoughts and feelings. Through the course of the book, Essex draws heavy parallels between a woman's life in ancient Greece and a woman's life in 18th-century England--both democracies at war with other world powers.
At times, the book was tiring. In addition to the aforementioned emphasis on the erotic, the dialogue could be difficult, and Essex belaboured her points about women's disadvantages.
I did enjoy how she worked in little points of historical detail (for example, explaining to the reader how Elgin had syphilis, not rheumatism, by making Sebastian explain it to Mary). For the most part the book seems quite accurate from a historical perspective.
Far from my favourite book, Stealing Athena was a satisfactory portrayal of two women who lived a millennium apart yet still suffered the same challenges.