Release Date: September 27, 2011
Buying Links: Amazon Abe Books
Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
Roman historian Procopius publicly praised Theodora of Constantinople for her piety-while secretly detailing her salacious stage act and maligning her as ruthless and power hungry. So who was this woman who rose from humble beginnings as a dancer to become the empress of Rome and a saint in the Orthodox Church? Award-winning novelist Stella Duffy vividly recreates the life and times of a woman who left her mark on one of the ancient world's most powerful empires. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore is a sexy, captivating novel that resurrects an extraordinary, little-known figure from the dusty pages of history.
Well trained, Theodora knew better than to lower her market value. Time after time when she didn't feel like it and she didn't want to - perform or f**k or greet or charm or act or dance or smile - time after time when, no matter how she felt, she rose from her bed and washed and put on her makeup and combed her hair and dressed for the part and stepped out on to the stage that was theatre or bed or family or stranger or - as it had been here in Apollonia - the Governor's mansion. New stage, new Theodora mask, same old strength required. Theodora was nineteen years old, sick to death of carrying on, and she carried on.
I don't currently read a lot of historical fiction, though I have gone through phases where I do. This one was interesting, an actress who went on to become an empress? One I'd never heard of? It seemed worth trying. I'm glad I did. It sat in my TBR pile for a few months and I wish I'd picked it up sooner. It's a well researched novel but I never felt as if I was reading a treatise or an info dump. Duffy does an excellent job of writing a fictional version, based on what seems to be solid research, and really making us see and feel what Theodora saw and felt. She was not always a likable person, but the fictional Theodora, at least, recognized and admitted her faults.
"Theodora" is at times a dense read, with all of the background and the different time period to familiarize yourself but I was hooked from the beginning and cared about Theodora and what happened to her. The book ends as she is crowned empress, leaving me going, "But...but...what happened next? What kind of empress was she? Was she happy?" So, I must, it seems, hunt out books, probably non-fiction, to get my answers. Theodora had a remarkable life, very full, and it's a pity that she is not better known. I strongly recommend this book.
I received an eARC from the publisher.