Renault, Mary. The Persian Boy. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.
Mary Renault continues the story of Alexander the Great (the first book was Fire From Heaven) in The Persian Boy. When we catch up with Alexander it has been six years. He is now 26 years old. His prowess as a conqueror cannot be questioned, as it was covered in Fire From Heaven, so Renault chooses to explore Alexander’s sensual side as he forges a relationship with slave-boy Bagoas. As a eunuch Bagoas is used to being a plaything for royalty. His beauty is beyond compare and when Alexander is presented with Bagoas as a peace offering he cannot refuse. Despite once serving Alexander’s Persian enemy Bagoas decides to be loyal to Alexander and make Alexander love him. What follows is the classic struggle of Persian versus Macedonian cultures as Bagoas assumes the narrative.
Interesting quotes, “There are eunuchs who become women, and those who do not; we are something by ourselves and must make of it what we can” (p 40).
Reason read: to continue the story of Alexander the Great that was started in September.
Author fact: Mary Renault had a lifelong partner named Julie Mullard (more info here).
Book trivia: Renault strays from third person narrative and tells Alexander’s story through the first person narrative of Bagoas, his companion and lover.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 59).
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).