Fire From HeavenPosted: 2012/09/18
Renault, Mary. Fire From Heaven. New York: Pantheon Books, 1969.
The story of Alexander the Great opens with Alexander as a young child waking to find a snake in bed with him. He assumes it is his mother’s pet snake, Glaukos. From there we are, guided by Renault’s excellent storytelling, witness to Alexander’s rise to greatness with fiction interwoven with nonfiction. For example, Renault wasn’t there for Alexander’s first battle and there is little documentation of it. So, the battle and subsequent kill at the age of twelve is purely fictional but Renault makes it easy to picture it as fact even if it is a little incredulous. With no ornament or artifact to take from the body as a trophy, Alexander saws off the head of his enemy.
Renault skillfully shows Alexander growing up, becoming more and more of a leader. Played against each other are his parents, the ever jealous Olympia and King Philip. Alexander learns how to manipulate them equally. Hephaistion starts his relationship with Alexander as a schoolmate and, as both boys mature, becomes a devoted friend with a level of intimacy that borders on homosexuality. Renault does not shy away from such relationships as they were commonplace.
“Was every enemy of his a hero to his son?” (p 76).
“Fear lay dead at his feet” (p 228).
Reason read: Back to school, let’s get a little Greek!
Author fact: Mary Renault is known for her classic works of Greek mythology. I read The King Must Die in high school.
Book trivia: Fire From Heaven is the first book in a trilogy about the life and times of Alexander the Great. I am only reading the first two.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 59).