Selene of Alexandria

Selene of Alexandria

by Faith L Justice

Paperback

$14.99
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, January 28

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780692356982
Publisher: Raggedy Moon Books
Publication date: 11/24/2009
Pages: 414
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

Faith L. Justice writes award-winning novels, short stories, and articles in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in such publications as Salon.com, Writer's Digest, The Copperfield Review, and the Circles in the Hair anthology. She is a frequent contributor to Strange Horizons, Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine, and co-founded a writer's workshop many more years ago than she likes to admit. For fun, she likes to dig in the dirt-her garden and various archaeological sites.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

SELENE OF ALEXANDRIA 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
MillieHennessy on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book centers around Selene, daughter of a wealthy council member, living in Alexandria during a time of unrest. With a power-hungry bishop fighting against the fair-minded city prefect, the city has many political and religious riots and debates. Selene is breaking boundaries by persuing her dreams to become a physician and she gets caught up in all the turmoil and intrigue that goes on. I found the characters to be very believable, and of course Selene was my favorite. The pace was a bit choppy at times, skipping ahead a few months during times that seemed like they should be filled with action. I also wasn't expecting the few gory medical details, but they added to the reality of Selene's life. But I was definitely interested in all the events surrounding Selene, and found myself easily caught up in the drama. I enjoyed the realism of the situations, and the fact that though Selene was a tough, smart, and determined herione, not every detail in her life turned out perfect.
GCPLreader on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I don't know what I loved more-- the exciting story of a 5th C. woman struggling to fulfil her calling during the decline of the Roman Empire, or all the history I learned of a little known time and place. The setting is Alexandria, the vital Egyptian city held by the Romans because it supplied wheat for the entire empire. The Roman Catholic Church is now the official religion and is gaining in power. I was fascinated to read a story of the politics of the Empire vs. the Church and what would lead to the tragically named, but apropos, Dark Ages. Selene is a wonderful, early feminist role model as she risks her life to study medicine. Her story builds to a surprisingly suspenseful climax as her medical training is called into question. I would strongly recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction.
nanajlove on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a book with everything, historical setting, intrigue, mystery, social and political conflict. It is well written and I truly appreciate the dedication the author showed by staying as true as possible to the scant historical record while maintaining the integrity of her story. Selene's story is more than a coming of age tale. The story encompasses the social unrest which ultimately brings down huge empires from the inside; it explores the role religious figures have played in shaping the knowledge base and controlling the populace; it delves into the social restrictions placed on women and the lower classes and the price which must be paid in order to challenge these conceptions, just to name a few. By far, my favorite part of this novel is the ending; we don't get a tidy everything is roses ending. It realistically depicts the depths of human suffering that the characters have endured, with just a hint of optimism that when they leave the den of corruption Alexandria has become, their fortunes may improve. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author through the LibraryThing member giveaway program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
jmccarro on LibraryThing 5 months ago
"Selene of Alexandria", by Faith L. Justice, is an historical novel set in Alexandria during the fifth century. It concerns a young woman named Selene who wishes to defy her sex and her class by becoming a physician. With some effort, she eventually obtains her father's blessing and the support of another key character, Hypatia, the mathematician and philosopher who lived during this time. The book describes her efforts to achieve her dream of practising medicine, and her adventures as she interacts with various prominent historical characters of the period.The premise of this book is a clever and effective one. Although it purports to tell the story of the fictional character Selene, the book is really about the historical characters around Hypatia. That is, the author uses the fictional Selene as a device to relate, in dramatic form, the story of Hypatia. The writing is good, and the characters are well developed and interesting. The character of Selene is made to be very likeable, if a bit unrealistically virtuous.I give this book very high marks for historical fidelity. Among the many fictional works that chronicle the life and, mainly, the death of Hypatia, this one seem to stray the least from the known facts of Hypatias life (few though they be). While any work of fiction concerning the life of Hypatia must employ considerable interpolation, this book seems to have taken a fairly balanced view of events as we understand them. There is no obvious agenda here, as is so clearly the case in most other such works, other than the desire to relate a fascinating story. The use of the fictional character of Selene to effect this goal is successful and results in a very good story.I particularly liked the portrayal of Orestes and Cyril in this book. Here, although Cyril is no saint - pun intended - neither is he portrayed as the caricature of pure evil that most authors, seeking to attack the church, make him out to be. Ultimately, this makes for a more believable representation of this important historical character. Almost nothing is known about the historical Orestes, but Justice creates quite a believable character here as well.Highly recommended.
bunkie68 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In Selene of Alexandria, the title character is a young woman who's ahead of her time. Instead of getting married and settling down to the duties of home and hearth, as was customary for women of her time, Selene wants to be a physician. As her story unfolds, we not only get to know her, but other people in her life, both real and fictional. I just love female characters who don't want to fit into the nice neat little box that society prescribes for them, and Selene is no exception. As others have said, it did take a little bit for me to really be drawn in to the book, but once I was hooked, I could hardly put it down. Other characters were well-written and had their own stories to tell - they didn't just serve as a backdrop for Selene's life. The historical detail was interesting to me, and I found the story very engaging.
ulfhjorr on LibraryThing 5 months ago
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.
SusieBookworm on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Teen-aged Selene lives in the Christian city of Alexandria. In A.D. 412, it is unusual for upper-class girls to enter professions, but Selene wishes to become a physician rather than marry a man of her father's choice. She succeeds in gaining the tutelage of Lady Philosopher Hypatia and other Alexandrian scholars, but the city is descending into a struggle between the Christians under the new, young bishop and all other religious sects, pagan and Jewish. In a city separating into sides in the midst of political intrigue, religious fanaticism, and personal ambitions, can Selene manage to make her dream come true?Setting and characters: The setting and characters themselves are some of the most interesting aspects to this novel. It's set in the Roman Empire, but the Empire is the Christian one of several centuries after the gladiatorial, Caesar-run, pantheon-worshiping one of most other ancient Roman historical novels. It's a time period that I've never run into before in historical fiction, the one when classical civilization was fading into the "Dark Ages." Selene is a fascinating character, being a female physician-in-training (unusual but not unheard of), and the story of Orestes, Prefect of Alexandria, is told as well.Writing: Selene of Alexandria is both well-researched and well-written. Faith Justice makes clear which characters are fictional and which were actual people, and she also includes a historical note at the end to further explain what is factual and what is creative license. She incorporates a wealth of historical details into the story, and these are worked in well enough that they seem natural, not just random research forced into the storyline. My biggest plaudit for this novel is that its story is completely believable. Selene, though an unusual character, is not so modernized in her opinions and actions as to be implausible. Her role in the larger story of Alexandria is not some fantastical place reached by an entirely improbable series of events, instead coming across as small yet still important, organized by chance in the manipulations of the city's leaders. Another situation and person could have been substituted in her spot; it just happened to be Selene.Everything else: For some reason, it took me a surprisingly long time to get into the story. The author takes a while to set up the characters and story, but then there's several central characters and a complex plot. The novel got better after this, though. And better and better and better. By the end, I couldn't put it down. What started off as a slow plot kept getting faster and faster as tensions in Alexandria wound tighter and Selene and her family, along with everyone else, became more entangled in them. I'm hoping that Faith Justice will write another book about the characters of Selene of Alexandria, because even though the novel may have been written as a stand-alone, I want to see what happens to Selene, her family, and her friends as they move on after the conclusion.One final praise: Selene of Alexandria is historical fiction written for historical instruction, not for romance, Christian inspiration, or any other reason. I really hate it when authors take wonderful-sounding historical settings and characters and don't use them to teach history. Really, that's the purpose of historical fiction, to spread historical knowledge in a fun, accessible way. This novel does an excellent job with that, as I learned a lot about this part of history.
jboehret on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Even people who don¿t read historical fiction as obsessively as I do would like this, I should think. And they do! Reviewers on Amazon and GoodReads raved about this one. I believe I¿m the first to not like it all that much¿ So here¿s what happened for me.I knew nothing about this time period for Alexandria, Egypt. I typically read about Greece and Rome in this era. Before this, I¿d heard no more than a whisper of Hypatia. Orestes and ¿Saint¿ Cyril were completely unbeknownst to me. So, what I can take away from this is that I learned loads. I met some characters that actually existed 1600 years ago and that always pleases me when reading historical fiction. It¿s really the only place that can happen. But I digress¿Because I like to end on a good note¿The BadThe author mentioned somewhere that she wanted to get a viewpoint on the political and religious turmoil in this state from the eyes of a common person exposed to it. Hence the entrance of Selene, Philip, Rebecca, etc., all of the author¿s imagination. Great. I love when authors do that. They mix enough of the actual history with fiction that it makes sense. But the issue I have here is how predictable these characters were. It seemed that they could do nothing surprising. No cliffhangers. Call me a sucker for cliffhangers but I was bored with them. I knew what they would do/say/think/react to next. Not ver batim but I fancy myself experienced enough to have a good clue. I realize that there is a certain level of predictability that comes with the creation of a character for a novel. There¿s only so much one can think up without sounding like a mad person who is intentionally trying to make the wackiest character out there. But when it¿s blatantly obvious to a non-writer who the fictional characters are and who are based off real people, one has to wonder.A piece of me wants to mention the preachy nature of this book. But I realize that that was really the point. Religion was meant to be a main focal point. I just sorta felt like it was being forced down my throat on several occasions ¿ evidence suggesting atheism, I might add.The GoodThe author did an amazing job with the characters Cyril, Orestes, Hypatia, etc. I love them. I remember them. I feel like I knew them and I want to read more about them. They were engaging, dynamic, exciting and unpredictable. They felt like real people. Everytime Hypatia and Orestes had conversation, I was enraptured. To me, they shined enough that the other characters disappeared into the shadows. Was that the point? I doubt it seriously.I also think the author showcased the major events well. The purge of the Jews and ensuing Plague, the various riots, even women in professions in this era were all well described and invigorating. There¿s no doubt, it kept me clicking the page forward on my Kindle. I just wasn¿t thrilled silly.Sometimes I think I¿m too harsh, too critical of these writers when I¿m not a writer myself. Who am I to judge this person¿s work? But I can¿t help it. Am I too hung up on the fictional characters bit? I¿d like to go back and say ¿yeah, I should let that go¿. But this is historicalfiction. She¿s supposed to do well on the research and the made-up parts. And if there are so many writers out there who do this so well (Diana Gabaldon, Paullina Simons, Arthur Golden, etc.), why can¿t she? She¿s got to be held to a higher standard because she writes for a genre that¿s composed of two equally important parts. We¿re meant to believe this and I wasn¿t sold.I don¿t particularly recommend this. My best suggestion when I review something as not great or worse, is to go out and read it yourself to form your own opinions if you so choose.
allisonmacias on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Selene is a rich man's daughter living in Alexandria in 412 AD. Not content with the life of a noble Christian woman, she seeks knowledge and freedom. After meeting Lady Philosopher Hypatia and convincing her father to allow her to continue her studies, Selene enters the Museum as a student. She excels at her classes, much to the delight of her father and chagrin of the other elite living in Alexandria. Cyril, the new patriarch of the Alexandrian Church wants to convert Alexandria to complete Christianity. Standing in his way to domination is Prefect Orestes and the Lady Philosopher Hypatia. Also in the Patriarch's way, those who stand for reason. Selene must learn how to navigate this treacherous road.When readers meet Selene, she is a gangly girl of fourteen. Her desire for knowledge distinguishes her from her peers, both male and female. Her journey to awareness can be heartbreaking, but with each misstep, Selene learns a new lesson. And her sincerity and good nature earn her the reader's love. I expected to see more of Hypatia, but her absence leaves the focus on Selene. The other secondary characters, such as Rebecca, Orstes and Antonius were wonderful.The action is never ending, and the plot is full of SUPER twists and turns. Also included in this book are undercurrents of class relations, as well as a battle of Church versus State. These only increase the book's readability.This book had me tearing up a lot. Here are some of my favorite parts."Philosophy is a rigorous study and a way of life which only a few are able to master.""Stripped of my past, I have the opportunity to make my own future."Needless to say, I loved this book and would wholeheartedly recommend this book to any ancient book lover or anyone wanting to learn about Hypatia.
Justjenniferreading on LibraryThing 5 months ago
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.
rarelibrarian on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I received this book through the Member Giveaway, and I was very impressed with the delivery of the book. I received it promptly (even if I didn't read and review it promptly!), and the author took the time to write a note and inscribe it to me, which I really appreciated. I thought it was an excellent personal touch.After I sat down to read the book, it was a quick and pleasant read. **Mild Spoilers** The plot follows the life and ambitions of Selene as she strives to follow her heart's goal of becoming a physician, or at least what passed for one in the late days of Roman occupied Egypt. Her father, while at first furious, gives in to her and allows her to begin studying with the famous Lady Philosopher of Alexandria, Hypatia. Things go well at first, until rising tensions between the Jews and early Christians set of religious riots as the Patriach of the city strives to consolidate his political control of the city. Selene is caught up in his plans, and her life begins a tragic course.Overall, I was impressed with the fact that the author didn't need to give Selene a happy ending. I felt that the story had closure and I like that she survived to go on and live her life a changed woman elsewhere. However, it would have been nice to have one of the two love plots work out and at least allow her some satisfaction in that part of her life. I like to htink that Selene found love wherever she ended up living. I would recommend this book to those interested in Roman culture, early medicine, Egyptian history and the early church. The book is obviously meticulously researched, and I feel it to be factually correct.
Soniamarie on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I almost gave this a three, but the last quarter and the surprise ending brought it up to a four. The beginning starts great. Readers meet Selene, a young lady of a reputable family Alexandria, Egypt. Note that this is an Alexandria ruled by Rome so it is actually a part of Rome in this particular time. A new Prefect, Orestes is just arriving to take the reigns of the city that is being ruined by religion wars. While Alexandria's Christians and Jews are constantly rioting in the streets and Orestes is struggling to maintain order and keep both sides happy, Selene is trying to become a doctor. She begins this difficult task by deceiving her father, dressing as a boy, and obtaining a meeting with the famous female philospher, Lady Hypatia. From that point on, it's apprenticeship and ministering to the sick. Selene is a very likeable and very strong heroine. Cyrus, Alexandria's "head priest" has other ideas tho. He keeps inflaming the religion wars and he has his evil heart set on the downfall of Hypatia. He intends to use Selene to get to the lady philospher. I did not like the parts that focused on Cyrus or the religious strife in Alexandria. Tho important to the outcome of the story, these parts and the religious arguments and discussions just bored me to death. It simply doesn't interest me. However, the ending picked up wonderfully with no end of excitement. There are deaths of family and friends, an accusation of witchcraftery, a trial, an arrest, an escape, and a surprise ending. I wouldn't have chose it to end the way it did but I must admit, I was surprised. A decent, four star read.
Sheltiemama on LibraryThing 5 months ago
"Selene of Alexandria" is about a teenager constrained by her class and time who fights for the right to study medicine in Alexandria, Egypt. Though she and her family are fictional, many of the other characters were real. One of the most prominent characters, who becomes Selene's champion and teacher, is Hypatia, a philosopher and mathematician. I loved learning about her and want to read more.I learned an incredible amount about what life was like in the time and place where this story was set. (I don't think I would have fared very well.) Justice does an excellent job making history come alive. I think we forget just how sophisticated civiliations that long ago were.I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
Jennmarie68 More than 1 year ago
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.
HawkeyesJMG More than 1 year ago
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!)
WallyR More than 1 year ago
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 [1] 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. [1] Ref: www.firstshowing.net/2009/05/17/cannes-2009-review-alejandro-amenabars-agora/
AndrewKennett More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GLRothman More than 1 year ago
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.