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Reviews of Glorious Exploits by Ferdia Lennon

Glorious Exploits

A Novel

by Ferdia Lennon

Glorious Exploits by Ferdia Lennon X
Glorious Exploits by Ferdia Lennon
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2024, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Alicia Calvo Hernández
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About this Book

Book Summary

An utterly original celebration of that which binds humanity across battle lines and history.

On the island of Sicily amid the Peloponnesian War, the Syracusans have figured out what to do with the surviving Athenians who had the gall to invade their city: they've herded the sorry prisoners of war into a rock quarry and left them to rot. Looking for a way to pass the time, Lampo and Gelon, two unemployed potters with a soft spot for poetry and drink, head down into the quarry to feed the Athenians if, and only if, they can manage a few choice lines from their great playwright Euripides.

Before long, the two mates hatch a plan to direct a full-blown production of Medea. After all, you can hate the people but love their art. But as opening night approaches, what started as a lark quickly sets in motion a series of extraordinary events, and our wayward heroes begin to realize that staging a play can be as dangerous as fighting a war, with all sorts of risks to life, limb, and friendship.

Told in a contemporary Irish voice and as riotously funny as it is deeply moving, Glorious Exploits is an unforgettable ode to the power of art in a time of war, brotherhood in a time of enmity, and human will throughout the ages.


SO GELON SAYS to me, "Let's go down and feed the Athenians. The weather's perfect for feeding Athenians."

Gelon speaks the truth. 'Cause the sun is blazing all white and tiny in the sky, and you can feel a burn from the stones as you walk. Even the lizards are hiding, poking their heads out from under rocks and trees as if to say, Apollo, are you fucking joking? I picture the Athenians all crammed in, their eyes darting about for a bit of shade, and their tongues all dry and gasping.

"Gelon, you speak the truth."

Gelon nods. We set out with six skins: four of water and two of wine, a pot of olives, and two blocks of that smelly cheese Ma makes. Ah, it's a beautiful island we have, and sometimes I think the factory closing is my chance to shake things up. That I might just leave Syracuse and find myself a little place by the sea, no more dark rooms, clay, and red hands, but the sea and the sky, and when I come home with a fresh catch slung over my shoulder, she'll be there, whoever she ...

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The staging of an anti-war milestone like The Trojan Women with prisoners of war infuriates many, including characters with whom Gelon and Lampo have previously clashed. As the theatrical production progresses, Lennon builds palpable intrigue that culminates in the performance in the quarries, the climax. The novel leaves behind a comforting warmth, suggesting that in a world overshadowed by conflict and cruelty, stories can still offer hope and purpose. The question raised by the narrator lingers: Was it Euripides they were saving after all?..continued

Full Review (657 words)

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(Reviewed by Alicia Calvo Hernández).

Media Reviews

Associated Press
If the googly eyes on the cover didn't make it apparent, Ferdia Lennon's knockout debut novel Glorious Exploits is hilarious. In fact, it's loaded with dark humor literally from page one. Never before has history been such a riot, and so indelibly endearing.

Lennon's unique voice sparkles with a darkly comic undertone in this quirkily uplifting commentary on war, art and the surprisingly resilient spirit of humanity.

New York Magazine
Blackly funny and totally original.

The Washington Post
A stunning (and stunningly fun) meditation on companionship, humanity and the role of performance in keeping us all afloat... . In a contemporary moment of war, Lennon's sharp eye for the barbarism that can accompany society's theatrical coping mechanisms feels almost too relevant ... [A] thrilling and heartbreaking debut novel.

New York Times Book Review
Charming ... . [A] breezy, winning debut.

Readers Digest
Lennon's debut ... sparkles with humor.

The Globe and Mail
'Let's put on a show!' takes on a darkly funny meaning in this debut novel ... . Outlandishly anachronistic Irish-inflected dialogue (the author is from Dublin) proves a deep comedic well.

Laugh-out-loud funny...this superb novel builds to a page-turning crescendo that evokes the great tragedy the men stage.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
An entertaining and impressive debut...Exploring themes of friendship, loyalty, and the toll of war, Lennon evokes a time when it was common to relish and revere the art of Homer's poetry and Euripides' drama. Those with that appetite today are fortunate to have Madeline Miller, Emily Wilson, Pat Barker, and recently James Hynes' Sparrow. And Lennon.

Library Journal (starred review)
Irish-born Lennon's distinctly modern voice adds levity and wit to this highly recommended narrative about the tragic aftermath of war and the tragic beauty of the human condition.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Lennon brings ancient Sicily to life with humor and pathos in his stunning debut... [this] vital tale captivates.

Author Blurb Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of The Wonder
Glorious Exploits is as madly ambitious as a production of Euripides in a prison quarry, and succeeds thanks to Ferdia Lennon's ability to conjure up the past as vividly as Mary Renault, with all the blunt humanity of Roddy Doyle. Cathartic like all great tragedy, but shockingly funny too, this outstandingly original debut is just glorious.

Author Blurb Rebecca Stott, author of Dark Earth
Sublime. Pitch-perfect dialogue, a fast-moving story that is both dark and lyrically beautiful, tragic and funny in equal measure. Glorious Exploits is an astonishingly original and gripping story of brotherhood, war and art. Ferdia Lennon is a fierce new talent.

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Beyond the Book

Irish Vernacular in Glorious Exploits

While it's impossible to determine for sure how ancient Greeks sounded, Ferdia Lennon asserts that, despite what one hears and reads in many works depicting this era, they didn't echo the tones of Oxford scholars. In his novel Glorious Exploits, set in 5th century BCE Sicily, the narrator Lampo converses in a contemporary Hiberno-English, a term that encompasses the dialects of English spoken in Ireland that retain grammatical structures, phonology, and vocabulary derived from Gaelic.

Until the 12th century, Irish Gaelic stood as the sole language of Ireland. The influx of Anglo-Normans introduced Old English to Dublin, yet Gaelic maintained its supremacy until the Tudor conquest in the 16th century. Following this, English ascended to ...

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