Customer Reviews for

Stealing Athena

Average Rating 3.5
( 18 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2008

    The Elgin Marbles

    Stealing Athena is a wonderful historical novel about two relatively unknown women from completely separate time periods. Mary Nisbet and Aspasia of Miletus may have lived more than 2200 years apart, but Karen Essex¿s new book shows the similarities between them, both in their lives and in their personalities. A slightly larger portion of the book is from Mary¿s point of view, and we are first introduced to Aspasia when Mary begins reading Plutarch¿s Life of Pericles. Aspasia was the lover of Pericles, who commissioned the Parthenon Marbles. Mary¿s life became forever intertwined with the Elgin Marbles, as they are also known, when her husband, Lord Elgin, set out on his quest to `rescue¿ the marbles from Athens for the glory of Britain. Stealing Athena spans the entirety of Mary¿s marriage to Lord Elgin, including the years it took to obtain the Parthenon Marbles, and parts of Aspasia¿s life with Pericles. Essex¿s book gives very interesting insights in the women¿s relationships and how they assist their partners in their endeavors, despite the prejudices against women in both eras. We also are given a window into the cultures and beliefs of their society, which made it easy to understand what motivated them and their peers. Overall, it is a great book to read, for either the relationships and character dynamics, or for the historical settings and culture. I personally believe if you like historical fiction or character driven novels, you¿ll love this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2011

    Enjoyable historical read

    I really enjoyed how the two different stories entertwined and complimented each other. The plot was intriguing and suspenseful, coming to a head at each womans trial. Both female characters were well rounded and easy to relate to. The author did an amazing job of painting the scenes. It was a wonderful lesson in the historical struggles women have faced with being thought of as lesser than men and what these two women contributed to history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Tale of Two Women

    The famed Elgin marbles, which were transported from Greece to England over two hundred years ago, are the linchpin around which this novel turns. The lives of two female historical figures associated with these exquisite works of art have numerous parallels. Aspasia, beloved mistress of Perikles at the time of the building of the Parthenon, was intelligent, educated, and strong-willed. So was Mary, Lady Elgin, born over two thousand years later. Both women had to deal with a male-dominated society which felt they had far exceeded their "place" in it. Both defied convention, ending up in scandalous and humiliating court trials. And both women prevailed. Many of the men in the story do not fare well with the author, especially the vastly self-centered Lord Elgin, who traipses his pregnant wife through dangerous terrain again and again with little regard to her safety and comfort. And who has little sympathy as she struggles through one difficult and agonizing birth after another. A fine book - though I did not find it quite as engaging as Ms. Essex's Leonardo's Swans - and a beautifully researched one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    The Elgin Marbles

    Stealing Athena has a beautiful cover, one of the nicest I've seen in a long while. Rich and opulent, just like the settings for this story. A novel based on true events, it reads like a romance. The tale is a romantic one, taking place as it does in Greece (both ancient and "modern" (19th century)) and Constantinople. The author's attention to detail is wonderful; she makes you see the fascinating places she describes. I really like that she included a section telling what happened to each of the major characters, including the Elgin Marbles.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2008

    Fascinating Historical Fiction

    I was immediately captured by the beautiful cover art of Stealing Athena by Karen Essex, released by Random House. This story is told from the viewpoints of two women in two different periods of history whose lives are touched by the same priceless art. Lady Mary Elgin is a young, wealthy, pregnant twenty one year old who accompanies her husband on his mission as England's ambassador to Turkey in 1799. Lord Elgin has a burning desire to literally bring the beauty of Greek sculpture and architecture back to Britain. He sets his sights on the city of Athens, the Parthenon and the many sculptures dedicated to the goddess Athena. Mary is vibrant and outgoing. She uses her beguiling ways (and her money) to benefit and further her husband's cause. Aspasia is living in Athens at the height of the Golden Age - the time of the building of the Parthenon and many monuments and temples by Pheidias. She is the courtesan of Pericles -one of the leaders of the city of Athens. She is also a philosopher and although never fully accepted by the Athenians, she provides counsel to many of them. I don't usually read this time period, but I found myself entranced with the exquisite detail that Essex has infused her work with. I then skipped to the back of the book and discovered that Lady Elgin is not a fictional character and the deconstruction of the Parthenon by her husband really took place. Much of Mary's fictionalized life is based upon her actual journals. More chapters are devoted to Mary's life and this is the character I enjoyed the most. Her determination, will and drive are inspiring - even more so considering the time period she lived in . Although I enjoyed Aspasia's chapters as well, I found myself glossing over some of the detailed descriptions. There are many parallels between Aspasia and Mary's lives - the role of women in a male dominated society being one of the foremost. However the extraordinary way both use their strong personalities to deal with these constraints are similar as well. The men in the stories are portrayed well also. I really ended up despising Lord Elgin and his cavalier treatment of not just Mary but the Greek countrymen who did not want their heritage removed. Stealing Athena features a fascinating fictionalization of historical events. Fans of Emma Donoghue would enjoy Stealing Athena.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting but slow going

    I have read quite a lot about the Elgin Marbles because they are stone masterpieces from the Classical Era of Greece, and Greece and Britain have been fighting over who rightfully owns them for decades. So I was looking forward to reading this book. Mary Elgin is an interesting character, but I didn't like Lord Elgin from the very start, making it hard for me to wade through a lot of detail about an unsympathetic character. There is also a second story, that of the Greek courtesan, Aspasia, but I ended up skipping over the chapters of her story so that I could stay focused on Mary's.

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  • Posted August 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing. Impeccable research. As everything else she writes.

    It comes back and forth between different eras. The description of the ancient Greek times and the creation of the Parthenon are simply
    incredible. I would tell more but then again, it will prevent any ready from discovering an astonishing story. For the lovers of historical fiction, this is it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2008

    Opulent settings

    ''Stealing Athena'' has a beautiful cover, one of the nicest I've seen in a long while. Rich and opulent, just like the settings for this story. A novel based on true events, it reads like a romance. The tale is a romantic one, taking place as it does in Greece (both ancient and 'modern' (19th century)) and Constantinople. The author's attention to detail is wonderful she makes you see the fascinating places she describes. I really like that she included a section telling what happened to each of the major characters, including the Elgin Marbles.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted August 2, 2011

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    Posted July 25, 2011

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