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Stealing Athena: Book summary and reviews of Stealing Athena by Karen Essex

Stealing Athena

by Karen Essex

Stealing Athena
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2008
    464 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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About this book

Book Summary

The Elgin Marbles have been displayed in the British Museum for nearly two hundred years, and for just as long they have been the center of a raging controversy. In Stealing Athena, Karen Essex chronicles the Marbles' amazing journey through the dynamic narratives of Mary Nisbet, wife of the Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to Constantinople, and Aspasia, the mistress of Perikles, the most powerful man in Athens during that city’s Golden Age.

At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the twenty-one-year-old, newly wed Countess of Elgin, a Scottish heiress and celebrated beauty, enchanted the power brokers of the Ottoman Empire, using her charms to obtain their permission for her husband's audacious plan to deconstruct the Parthenon and bring its magnificent sculptures to England. Two millennia earlier, Aspasia, a female philosopher and courtesan, and a central figure in Athenian life, plied her wits, allure, and influence with equal determination, standing with Perikles at the center of vehement opposition to his vision of building the most exquisite monuments the world had ever seen.

Rich in romance and intrigue, greed and glory, Stealing Athena is an enthralling work of historical fiction and a window into the intimate lives of some of history’s most influential and fascinating women.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Essex shines light on the women who inspired and protected some of the greatest art ever created, and the men who exploited them." - Publishers Weekly.

"A lively expose of double standards in two societies that prided themselves on democratic ideals and respect for women." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Reader Reviews

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Linda

All of the Marbles
I enjoyed reading about two strong women, whose connection to the Elgin marbles and their accomplishments, were somehow lost in the maze of history. The book gives us a better understanding of the role played by Britain in saving the marbles but I still believe they belong in Greece. This is a wonderful book for any literary book club and for anyone who has a love of history. Personally, I would like to view the Marbles once more with this book as a background.

Valerie

Great
For me, Stealing Athena's strongest point is the excellent female characters. These two women are strong, independent, intelligent, and struggling with the restraints placed on them by male dominated societies. On a broader scale, this is excellent historical fiction, done in an unusual, to me at least, manner. There are two story lines, with two female protagonists, joined by the Greek art and history, but separated by centuries. It's interesting how so little changed in female freedom/repression during the many centuries these two story lines represent.

Irene

Stealing Athena
A fascinating historical novel.

Although millenniums apart, two smart, self-willed women battle the laws and customs made by men.

I liked this well-written novel because of the history, the determination of the two women and the focus on the marble carvings of Athens.

Juliet

Stealing Athena- Really good historical fiction!
Stealing Athena does a great job of bringing to life the fascinating story of the controversial acquisition of ancient Greek marbles by Lord Elgin, the ambassador to Turkey, and his beautiful and vivacious wife, Mary. The story is interwoven with a parallel tale of Perikles and his lover, Aspasia, who presided over the marbles' construction.

Both tales make exciting the stranger-than-fiction realities of these events, with rich detail providing an in-depth glimpse into eras and societies far removed from our own. Not only are these stories inherently interesting, the book is written in a way that makes for a fun read. In addition, it is interesting how both women must cope with their powerless status as women in their societies, leading the reader to question how some of these cultural assumptions about women have persisted into our own time and culture, and how women continue to deal with them today. I enjoyed this book a lot - it was unique, informative, and enjoyable, and it will stay with me for a long while.

Cynthia

Stealing Athena
This was a wonderful book - Karen Essex has skillfully intertwined two timelines in order to bring to the reader a story rich with detail. The depth of the characters is enthralling and their involvement behind the plundering of precious artifacts makes this a MUST READ!

Elsbeth

Stealing Athena, A Great Book
Stealing Athena was a joy to read, from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this book of historical fiction.

Mary Nisbet Elgin's story, set in the early 1800's is vividly told, while the author cleverly goes back to ancient Athen's Golden Age and weaves in the story of Aspasia, courtesan of Pericles. These two women, although living in very different times, showed strength and resourcefulness that will draw readers interested in women's advocacy issues. Greek mythology buffs will enjoy references to narratives of the gods and goddesses of ancient times.

I strongly recommend Stealing Athena to all adult book groups, as there are limitless topics of interest to discuss and ponder.

...11 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Karen Essex Author Biography

Karen Essex is an award-winning novelist and journalist and a screenwriter. She is the author of the national and international best-selling novel, Leonardo’s Swans (Doubleday 2006), about the rivalries among the powerful women painted by the great master when he was employed by the Duke of Milan. She has also written two acclaimed biographical novels about the queen of Egypt, Kleopatra and Pharaoh, published in 2001 and 2002, which she adapted into a screenplay for Warner Bros. Essex also adapted Anne Rice’s novel The Mummy or Ramses the Damned into a screenplay for Titanic director James Cameron and 20th Century Fox, and has written a screenplay about Kamehameha, the first king of Hawaii, for Columbia/Tristar.

Essex’s articles, essays and profiles have ...

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