Eromenos by Melanie McDonald
Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Seriously Good Books LLC.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 176pp
(Received for an honest review from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Melanie McDonald on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter
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Excerpt from Eromenos
Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian's sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.
This version of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates the youth scorned by early Christian church fathers as a "shameless and scandalous boy" and "sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's lust." EROMENOS envisions the personal history of the young man who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of antiquity, whose cult of worship lasted for hundreds of years—far longer than the cult of the emperor Hadrian.
In EROMENOS, the young man Antinous, whose beautiful image still may be found in works of art in museums around the world, finds a voice of his own at last.
Author Melanie McDonald transports readers back in time to second century AD. In her book Eromenos, readers will be captivated by the love story between Antinous and Hadrian, the fourteenth emperor of Rome. At long last Antinous, a young Bithynian boy has his voice. A tale filled with life, death and an Imperial love story. Told with passion, extensive research and a flair for the dramatic, Eromenos is historical fiction at it's best.
Hadrian the fourteenth Emperor of Rome has a sanctioned marriage to Sabrina, but his heart does not belong to her. He is captivated and entranced by a young Bithynian boy named Antinous. The relationship between them begins when Hadrian brings Antinous under his protection when the boy is only twelve years, but it grows into a tender and intimate love story. History records Antinous as a "scandelous and shameful" boy, a child who was at the mercy of the emperor. But the seven year affair between Hadrian and Antinous lasted even beyond the grave.
Melanie McDonald records the story of Roman Emperor Hadrian and his consort, Antinous with tender detail and understanding. As with most really good historical fiction, McDonald takes a character that is perhaps minor or in this case, one who has not been allowed to tell his own story and brings that character to life. McDonald does not portray Antinous as a simple slave, who is only doing the bidding of a powerful master. She allows the reader to see things through Antinous' eyes as he recounts his relationship with Hadrian. McDonald does an amazing job of letting Antinous' life speak for itself, which is something most authors don't do.
I admit to being a little skeptical about this one because I wasn't sure how I would feel about the male-male relationship between the main characters. But I thought McDonald handled this with grace and dignity. She conveyed to the reader the depth of the feelings Hadrian and Antinous had for each other and didn't make it come across as unseemly or dirty, as the relationship has been portrayed by history. Often times I think we as readers and more importantly as people forget that love is strong emotion in whatever form it chooses to present itself, and should not be discounted.
I really enjoyed the fact that Melanie McDonald chose to do a remarkable amount of research for this book. It is a short book at just close to 200 pages, but she packs a lot of information into it. The period detail is astounding. Readers will be able to see Roman and Greek culture in their minds eye, just as easily as if it were happening before their eyes. From the descriptions of life at court to life on the streets McDonald manages to draw the reader into the story and fills them with vivid images of life in the second century.
I recommend this one to readers who enjoy historical fiction, love stories and the narrative journal style of writing. Readers who are sensitive about same sex partners may want to pass, but I think you would be surprised at what you find in this one, it's well worth your time. It is as much a coming-of-age story as anything. A young boy who had the attention and command of the leader of the free world at that time. It is both adventurous and mythical in that Antinous's spirit captivated Hadrian even after his death. An amazing story!
Eromenos is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Melanie McDonald has an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas. Her work has appeared in New York Stories, Fugue, Indigenous Fiction, and online. She won a 2008 Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland for Eromenos.