for Selene of Alexandria
It happens: blogs and websites go dead, missing, blocked, or taken over by malware. The following sites are no longer available, but the reviews are a direct cut and paste of the originals. The copyright belongs to the owners of the sites. Also note that the book information (publisher, ISBN, length, price, etc.) provided is for the first edition and incorrect. I’ve removed/updated dead links.
The Historical Novel Society
Faith L. Justice, Booklocker.com, 2009, $18.95, pb, 346 pp, 9781601458131
Selene has wanted to be a physician ever since the deaths of her mother and baby brother, but this is no easy feat for a girl living in fifth-century Alexandria, Egypt, where higher education is mostly relegated to men. But Selene’s drive and intelligence soon earn her the patronage of Lady Hypatia, the city’s remarkable polymath scholar (fascinatingly brought to life here), and gain her entrée into the Museum, Alexandria’s renowned institute for learning.
Alexandria is not only a “city of scholars” but a hotbed of clashing faiths and cultures with escalating violence in the streets and mounting tensions. It is against this prevailing atmosphere of suspicion and intolerance that Selene’s medical training and her apprenticeship to an aged healer, helping to treat patients in the city’s non-Christian quarters, is called into question and catapult her into a trial for her very own life.
While Selene admirably paves a path for herself in a patriarchal society, her blatant proto-feminism can be quite jarring for the time period, and the reader is left hanging as to her ultimate fate. But Selene’s world is so meticulously described, from the small, everyday details of her wardrobe and toilette to the authentic recreation of the city she inhabits (partially based on actual excavated ruins), and rendered with such a “you-are-there” immediacy—whether it is a grand chariot procession through the bustling streets or a bird’s eye view from the top of the skyscraping Lighthouse, one of the ancient world’s Seven Wonders—that readers will be captivated.
Fans of Gillian Bradshaw’s classic The Beacon at Alexandria (whose heroine travels to the titled city disguised as a male so she can study medicine) may especially enjoy Selene and find a promising new historical novelist who shares the same gift for wonderfully researched, vividly evoked, good old-fashioned storytelling. — Brett Correa
[Original link: http://historicalnovelsociety.org/hnr-online-may-2010.htm]
[Please note: The Historical Novel Society is currently revamping their website and trying to get all their reviews up and searchable. The above link doesn’t work, but this is a direct cut and paste from when it did. I’ll update the link when this review is added to their site.]
The Copperfield Review
Written by Faith L. Justice
Review by Paula Day Receives: [image of five quills–their highest review rating]
The intrigues of the world of fifth century Hellenized Alexandria are brought to life in Faith L. Justice’s novel, Selene of Alexandria. Through Justice’s wonderful storytelling, I was drawn back into that era.
In the fifth century, a time when wealthy young women were expected to live a life of leisure, young Selene has a desire to heal and she wants to be a physician. In order to gain the approval for her medical studies from her father, she must have the sponsorship of Hypatia, the philosopher. Disguised as a boy, Selene begins to attend Hypatia’s school. With Hypatia’s help, Selene gains medical knowledge, but an unfortunate incident brings problems her way. First, Selene is tried for malpractice. Then, she is tried for witchcraft. Amidst the backdrop of Selene’s story is the social problems plaguing the city. Jews and pagans are being expelled, along with anyone who disagrees with the Christian powers that be. Selene and Hypatia find themselves caught in the midst of the political and religious upheaval. The superstitions of the times may be both of their undoings.
Selene of Alexandria is a fascinating look into a troubled era, and it is clear that Justice did her research for this novel. The sights, the sounds, the people, the culture, and the political climate of the times are brought to life through exquisite attention to detail. Everything from lifestyles, food, architecture, and clothing are there for us to experience alongside the characters. Selene of Alexandria does what historical fiction does best—weave historical fact, real-life historical figures, and attention to detail with page-turning, plot-driven fiction. Reading Selene of Alexandria is a trip back in time to fifth century Alexandria. You don’t need a prior understanding of the era or even a particular interest in this time in history to enjoy this novel. Justice gives you all the tools you need to follow the story, and she expertly brings you along for the ride.
Paula Day is the review editor of The Copperfield Review. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
[Original link: http://www.copperfieldreview.com/reviews/Selene.htm]
Book Review – Selene of Alexandria by Faith Justice
Set in 5th century Alexandria, Selene of Alexandria is the story of a fictional young girl on the verge of womanhood whose desire is to study and become a physician is pure fiction magic. She longs to be mentored by Hypatia, (true historical woman) who was a famous and controversial philosopher during that era.
First, she must fight the social values that insist that noblewomen’s only role were to be wives and mothers. Through a set of gutsy moves, Selene succeeds in all her aspirations. But conflicts between city politicians and religious leaders soon interfere with her plans, bringing danger and hardship and death into her life.
For a debut novel, Selene of Alexandria, is a powerful tale of a woman’s struggles to become a legitimate healer. The backdrop consists of world where Christians are at odds with Jews, where violence and injustice rule. Orestes, the handsome new governor finds himself at odds with the junior, ambitious new cleric named Cyril. At the heart of the novel is the tragic character of Hypatia.
The author has weaved a brilliant tale that brings to life this fascinating era, complete with never-to-forgotten characters, unrequited love, and the desire of one woman to overcome adversity. The ancient civilization of Alexandria comes to life because of the author’s meticulous research that spanned nearly two decades and her penchant for detail. This novel clearly shows the writer’s passion for the era and its characters. It is a story that picks up momentum with each page until it reaches a very explosive ending. Highly recommended.
[Original link: http://scandalous-books.blogspot.com/2010/06/book-review-selene-of-alexandria-by.html]
Just Jennifer Reading
Just Jennifer Reading 8/4/10
By Jennifer DeFoy
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.
[Original link: http://justjenniferreading.blogspot.com/2010/08/review-selene-of-alexandria-by-faith-l.html]
March 31, 2011 By Ellen Gable Hrkach Leave a Comment
reviewed by Ellen Gable Hrkach
There’s nothing I’d rather do than to sit under a tree on a beautiful day and read a novel which transports me back in time. So I eagerly anticipated reading Selene of Alexandria by Faith Justice.
Admittedly, this was a hard book to get into. The author is a competent writer, but I initially had a difficult time bonding with the characters. As the story progressed, however, it became easier to relate to and bond with the characters.
Selene of Alexandria is a well-written, exquisitely-researched historical novel. It takes place in 412 AD and is the coming-of-age story of Selene, a teenager from a wealthy Christian family who yearns to be a physician. An early feminist, she has little interest in marriage.
Her family is not pleased, but eventually her father allows her to study with Hypatia, the renowned mathematician and philosopher of Alexandria. Because she is very intelligent and because she uses alternate means of healing, she gains many enemies and is eventually drawn into the rivalry between two candidates for Christian Patriarch: Cyril and Orestes, the Prefect.
Her childhood friend, Antonius, loves her, but she only has brotherly affection for him. She finds herself attracted to the Prefect, Orestes, although he is many years older. Other characters include Selene’s brothers, her father, Rebecca, a Jewish servant and many others. The climax of the story had me turning the pages very quickly.
A few criticisms…The cover was rather bland for a novel of this caliber. Also, I found some of the dialogue not consistent with the time period. And a warning: there is a sexually explicit scene in this book as well as a few near rape scenes which might be disturbing to younger readers. For these reasons, I would recommend this book to older teens and adults.
Selene of Alexandria is a well-written and well-researched novel. I recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction.
Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach
[Original link: http://www.catholicfiction.net/2011/03/31/selene-of-alexandria-by-faith-l-justice]
The Owl Bookmark Blog
Saturday, June 11, 2011
The Owl Bookmark Blog by Siobian Minish
It is 412 A.D., and while Selene should be joining her friends in getting married and starting a family, instead she dreams of becoming a physician. She seeks out Hypatia, Alexandria’s famous Lady Philosopher, to become her patron and mentor. Hypatia agrees to support Selene and introduces her to teachers at the Museum; Selene begins her studies, happily unaware of the political unrest in the city. However, Cyril, the new Patriarch of Alexandria’s Catholic Church, is determined to drive out pagan influences and views Hypatia as a roadblock in his plan to make Alexandria a completely Christian city. Soon, Selene cannot ignore the change in the wind and must choose between her life and her dreams.
I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Egypt, but usually that fascination revolved around Cleopatra, King Tut (or other kings and queens), the pyramids, and mummies. Selene of Alexandria was one of the first books I have read that did not involve Egyptian royalty or pyramids. It was interesting to read about Egypt from the viewpoint of an everyday person and learn more about Hypatia, who seems like she lead a captivating, and tragic, life. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, especially Selene and Rebecca, and following Selene on her adventures around her beloved city. Cyril was quite an evil villain and a good example of what happens when people let ambition, pride, greed, and power go to their head. It was apparent that the author did her research, shown by the attention to detail in the descriptions throughout the book of setting, food, clothing, as well as ideals and beliefs people had about medicine, faith, and a woman’s place in society. This novel completely submersed me in the time period and I became caught up in the dramas surrounding each of the characters. I thought the book flowed smoothly and the writing was well done; overall, I thought this was a great debut novel. My rating: 4 owls! Awesome!
[Original link: http://siobianthebookowl.blogspot.com/2011/06/review-selene-of-alexandria-by-faith-l.html]
The Book Garden Review
The Book Garden
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice Review
Selene is set in Alexandria in AD 412. It is the story of Selene, a young woman who wishes to break free from her father’s expectations for her to marry and have children to become a physician and spend her life helping others in need. We follow her as she works to convince her father to let her study to be a physician and then see her struggle to be the only woman studying medicine at that time. She faces many dangers along the way, Alexandria was a dangerous place filled with many different people who would wish to do a woman healer harm.
This was a really well written book that I enjoyed reading. The plot was interesting and moved the book along well and the main character, Selene, was likable and given lots of time in the book to grow and mature. The part of the book that I was most impressed with was the amount of detail the author used to describe the characters and more importantly the city of Alexandria. I really felt like I was in this amazing city from the descriptions of all parts of Alexandria. It was obvious a lot of time and research went into writing this book and this made the book all that more enjoyable to read.
The book also introduces us to Hypatia, a famous philosopher in Alexandria. Hypatia’s story is just as interesting as Selene’s and I found myself wanting to find out more about this important woman from this time. I am so glad I read this book and got the chance to learn so much about Alexandria, Hypatia, and what a young woman faced growing up during this time.
I was given this book by the author for review.
Posted by Anne at 5:35 AM
[Original link: http://thebook-garden.blogspot.com/2011/07/selena-of-alexandria-by-faith-l-justice.html]
Historical Novel Review
‘Selene of Alexandria’ by Faith L. Justice, is a historical novel, a straight one if you are into genres and subgenres, which is set in Alexandria during the fifth century.
Selene is only fourteen, when she makes a serious decision concerning her life. She wishes to defy her class’s expectations by becoming a physician. At those times, this is an absolute No-no. She finds support in Hypatia, the famous female mathematician and philosopher. She convinces her father to allow her pursuing her goal in a time, in which the Catholic Church is torn in sects, and Byzantine is all that remained from the Roman Empire. Soon, Selene finds herself amidst the struggle for power.
Embedded in the history of Alexandria, we watch Selene come to age. We experience the violence and fanaticism, tearing through the young church and the few remaining pagans. Selene is the strong and very independent woman type, maybe a tiny bit too modern in her ways; however, Faith manages to let us forget that Selene’s story is her vehicle to introduce us to Hypatia’s life.
The characters are well-drawn, the plot propels us forward, and the writing carries us easily throughout the story. Even the antagonist comes across as a fully fleshed out person. Especially the depiction of all the historical figures we see through Selene’s eyes and the level of authenticity are remarkable. No doubt, Faith has done her homework very well.
Having enjoyed reading it and being left curious about a sequel, I would like to recommend ‘Selene of Alexandria’ to the lover of straight historical fiction who cherishes authenticity and wants to learn about the dusk of the classical era and the dawn of Christianity.
Posted by Helena Gowan at 6/19/2010 2 comments Links to this post
Labels: 6th Century, Egypt
(Originally posted at http://historicalnovelreview.blogspot.com/2010/06/selene-of-alexandria.html)
The Atheist Quill
March 31, 2012
Book Review: Selene of Alexandria
Last fall, my husband and I made the trek down to San Francisco’s Atheist Film Festival. We didn’t set aside much time to watch the films, but I knew I wanted to see one: Agora, directed by Alejandro Amenábar and starring Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella and Oscar Isaac. I wrote about my reaction to the film here. The story is inspired by historical events surrounding the death of Hypatia, a 4th century AD scholar. I very much recommend you watch the film. Though it is not historically accurate, it is an incredibly well done movie that will have you in tears.
After posting my review of the movie, a very nice lady, and a great historian and writer, stopped by my blog. Her name is Faith L. Justice. In her own words, she is “a history junkie and science geek who writes historical novels and SF/F short stories.” How delightful! And she happened to have recently wrote about a young woman in Hypatia’s world. It took me awhile to get to it, but I just finished Selene of Alexandria, Ms. Justice’s debut novel.
First, let me recap the story. Selene of Alexandria is about a fictional character named Selene, a young well-to-do lady living in tumultuous Alexandria in 400 AD. She is on the cusp of womanhood, debating whether marriage will be thrust upon her or if she will follow her heart’s dream of becoming a physician. Through her story to reach that goal, Selene, as well as the reader, are buffeted against the large changes occurring in the city and throughout the region. The author weaves real, historical events into Selene’s fictional life, showing us just how people were affected by power and ambition, and the fight for religious souls.
I’m not a detailed sort of reviewer, so if you want to know more about the story specifics – read the book! It’s a great read.
So, what did I think of Ms. Justice’s book? As I said before, Selene of Alexandria is a great read. The author immerses the reader in the details of Alexandria at a very specific time and place. I felt like I was walking along the broad avenues, sampling the wares at the street markets, and running with Selene in the dangerous, narrow alleys. I found the historic detail well integrated into the story and the complexity of the city politics was never confusing. I had a clear grasp of the problems Orestes, the Roman Prefect in charge of the peace in the city, faced; the way a beloved scholar might be blind to the tides of change; and how religious zealots like Cyril, Hierex, and Ammonius could so easily do evil in the name of God and country. The author did an excellent job of bringing all these people and issues to life in a compelling story about a young woman who just wants to be herself.
As this is an Atheist’s Quill review, I can’t end this review without talking about religion. The backdrop of Selene of Alexandria is religion, in all the forms it might have occurred in Alexandria in 400 AD and then some. Selene’s family were former pagan’s, who had worshiped a mix of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian gods; most of the populace were Christians, or said they were Christians, as that was the official Roman Empire religion at the time; moderately sized Jewish enclaves were present in the city; and so were a number of other religions like Mithras. The author took pains to show the reader that just about every religion was represented in Alexandria – which is something that is true of all great, port cities in the past or today. It is hard to be at a crossroads, and not have every religion traipse by. And so it was in Alexandria.
The main character, Selene, is also at a crossroads. She is at an age (late teens) where her life will change one way or another. Her father is aging, but is also going through financial difficulty. She can either be married, but will little of a dowry to attract a good suitor, or follow her dream to be a doctor. But societal norms and religions notions frown upon a woman of status learning and participating in a profession. Throughout the novel as Selene attempts to pursue her dreams of being a doctor, men and women challenge, not only her moral beliefs, but her religious ones as well. One thing I definitely felt the author drove home well was how pervasive religion was (or is?) in the very minutiae of life. It seemed every aspect of Selene’s thoughts were governed by some religious or superstitious belief, as it must have been for every person of that time. For the people of Alexandria, religion defined who you were and what you did.
Reading Selene of Alexandria made me realize two things:
- I’m glad to be have been born in a relatively tolerate time where one can freely believe in no god, and
- Hypatia was no different from the rest of those religious zealots.
To be fair, Hypatia’s philosophy probably best matches my own personal philosophy better than any other religious person I know, alive or dead. However, as the author portrayed her in this book, Hypatia’s search for knowledge and understanding did not necessarily include the option of a world with no god. In this regard, I think the great scholar did herself an injustice.
Of course, that wouldn’t have saved her either. In the end, regardless of what Hypatia believed, it was not as those in power wanted her to believe and so she was used as a scapegoat in a move to consolidate people and power. What is the lesson for us non-believers, here and now?
We can’t control the zealots out there bent on spreading ignorance and religion, rather the best we can do is defend science and pursue a life dedicated to reason, charity, and tolerance.
(Original link: http://atheistquill.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/book-review-selene-of-alexandria/)