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Posted August 4, 2010
This book has everything... It was such a great story.
I LOVED Selene, she was such a great character. I'm really finding it hard to describe her. There were times when she was so strong, emotionally, and yet other times when she would let her emotions take over. She was so strong-willed and yet still understood her place in her world and did as she was supposed to do. I guess the best way I can think to describe her would be, she was a real woman.
I was very attached to Selene. She was just so real. While the story focused around Selene there were so many other things that were going on around her. Even when the story didn't focus on Selene she always managed to get herself right there in the middle of what was going on. There were times when I wanted to knock some sense into her, but I knew that she could handle whatever situations she was placed in.
The ending was great. While not everyone had a happy ending it was very realistic. There were a few unexpected twists that really added to the tension of the story, but they made for great reading.
The story was so great, it had everything. It was exciting, endearing, suspenseful, and emotional. There was a very tense felling around everything. The fight for power in the city, the fight for Selene to get what she wanted out of life, the fight of religion in the city. Everything was marked with tension.
This one did take me a while to read. I spent many hours with Selene, Hypatia, Phillip, Rebecca, and Orestes. I'm not sure why it took so long for me to read it, as it was a fairly fast-paced story.
Despite the time it took me to finish it was well worth the read. It was beautifully written, it was an intelligent story, and it was easy to escape into Selene's world.
Posted July 4, 2010
Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice has already received many excellent reviews and I must say that they are all very well-deserved. Ms. Justice has written a superb piece of historical fiction. The amount of research she did to create this story is phenomenal. History has never been a subject that I preferred to study, but if I could have gone to particular eras via books like this it would have been a much-preferred journey. Selene of Alexandria is a wonderful introduction to the 5th Century AD. Ms. Justice spent seventeen years of her life researching the history of that time period and it is very evident within her book. She takes readers there with much detail about the daily living and happenings of the times. Readers will truly get a sense of the time when Selene (fictional character) lived among the other characters, which are based on historical figures.
The story of Selene introduces us to a young woman who is gifted and strong-willed. She finds it within her heart to want to become a physician but she needs to fight against the restrictions of her class, beginning with her father, to be able to make that happen. Selene was a member of the Christian upper class and their women were expected to live a life of leisure and becoming a physician would be out of the question. Selene figures out a way to study under the historical figure of Hypatia, a philosopher. While this struggle is going on in Selene's life, the city is in a battle with the Christians fighting against the Jews and pagans. This book is filled with intensity and readers will find themselves on the edge of their chairs and holding their breath as many events occur. Ms. Justice doesn't just tell us about this time period, she takes us there. This book will capture readers to the point of not wanting to put it down, and being disappointed when it comes to an end. I highly recommend this book to readers of historical fiction (and to readers who aren't history buffs, but want to learn about history in an entertaining way!)
Posted May 24, 2010
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While most of us are familiar with the early Egyptian historical periods, during the reign of the Pharos, Alexander, Cleopatra, Caesar, Mark Anthony and others, little is known about a Greek lady philosopher named Hypatia. Faith Justice has chosen to pen a historical fiction novel during Hypatia's life and times in Alexandria during the 410s AD. By then although Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, a significant populace of other believers, Jews and pagans, existed in Egypt. The civilian rule was administered by the Constantinople appointed Prefect (governor), while the Patriarch (bishop) presided over the Christian church affairs.
This heart-wrenching story is narrated through the eyes of a young girl, Selene, born to a land-owning Christian family. Her mother having died, she is brought up by her ailing father and an elder brother, although they are busy in business and other duties. A second brother, her childhood playmate, joins the army and leaves for service overseas. Hence, Selene, having to grow up on her own, develops an independent mind. Even though it was most uncharacteristic for girls of her time, she decides to become a physician. Her desire blossoms when she witnesses the death of her beloved mother and decides to "thwart death any way she could." She shears her hair, disguises herself as a boy and with the help of her brother attends Lady Hypatia's school. Hypatia is taken in by Selene's courage and helps her-with some assistance from the recently appointed Prefect-to overcome her father's vehement objections to embark on a medical education. Herein lays Justice's skillfulness in narrating the story. We are able to observe the lady philosopher through the trials and tribulations and romance that Selene encounters.
Although a movie, "Agora," on Hypatia's life was made in 2009, one of the reviewers on its debut at the Cannes Film Festival  had remarked that a problem with the movie is that it struggles to properly develop the romantic side of the story, Justice's novel has no such "problem."
Selene of Alexandria, at 346 pages it a moderate length book that usually requires a few sittings to complete, but Selene's last 100 or so pages are so engrossing that they will definitely make one read those to finish, regardless of the lateness of the hour. Having closed the book, it's the kind of novel that lingers for quite some time in one's mind. Finally, Justice has introduced another charming aspect of the novel. Readers and book club members would likely spend many thoughtful hours debating its ending.
Reviewed By: Waheed Rabbani, author of "Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest," available from Amazon.
 Ref: www.firstshowing.net/2009/05/17/cannes-2009-review-alejandro-amenabars-agora/
In "Selene of Alexandria," Faith L. Justice does an impressive job of weaving the fictional story of a young woman's coming of age around an interesting historical backdrop. She allows the historical events to shape and guide her titular character while, at the same time, using Selene's story to put a very personal, live human touch on the historical characters and events.
The best historical fiction is written around instances of intense conflict, and that's precisely what Justice has done with "Selene" -- writing a story set in a Hellenized Egyptian city just as the Christians are poised to crush and stamp out dissenters, not only from their own ranks, but also in the form of Jews and pagans. This is a period fraught with danger and excitement from all corners, and Justice captures the mood and tensions well.
"Selene" also showcases another aspect shared by the best of the historical fiction genre. In the book, Justice does not allow the history to overshadow the fiction, not does she sacrifice the historical accuracy of her portrayal to make the writing easier. She walks that fine line well, pulling the reader into an engrossing story, but not giving him any reason to be shocked out of the historical world. I found myself quite incapable of putting aside the novel, always opting for "one more chapter" before going to bed only to find myself still reading hours later. However, at the end, I looked back and could not recall a single instant where I felt the story to be ahistorical.
The story in "Selene of Alexandria" is great, and the writing is even better. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any fans of historical fiction and to fans of a good read.
Posted February 27, 2010
In her debut novel, Faith Justice opens a door on a world rarely visited by fiction writers. The scene is fifth-century Alexandria, where ascendant Christians are muscling out the Jews and pagans. Historical figures frame the plot - Orestes, the city's well-intentioned new governor, who collides with its manipulative new bishop Cyril, and the ill-fated Lady Philosopher Hypatia. But the heart of the book is the title character, Selene, an energetic and inquisitive young woman whose high birth entitles her to a life of leisure. Instead, she aims to become a physician, a millennium and a half before the concept becomes socially acceptable. Her struggles to become a healer propel the fast-paced plot as Selene confronts society's expectations and becomes entangled in the dangerous church-versus-empire battle for the soul of the city.
"Selene" is clearly the product of prodigious research into the characters and their times. Among its gems - the true story of the architect who carved his name prominently into the famous Pharos lighthouse, covering it with plaster he knew would wear away over time, revealing its creator's credit. Free from the dreaded "white wall" syndrome, the book paints richly colored portraits of its settings; from the most primitive to the most opulent. The sights, sounds and smells of the ancient city are brought vividly to life. The characters are fully realized and complicated - tragic flaws and all. I came to care about Selene and her family. As with all my favorite works, I regretted reaching the end, and wondered what happened next.
Posted March 3, 2010
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