Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book Review: The Praise Singer

Continuing my journey through Ancient Greece in Historical Fiction, I've just finished Mary Renault's 1978 novel The Praise Singer, focusing on the lyric poet Simonides of Keos (556 BCE- 469 BCE).

The novel follows the narrator through his boyhood and into his fame from his point of view as an older man, and for me, this lens was a big part of what I really loved about the book. Early on, Simonides runs away from home to attempt to become apprenticed to a visiting poet, only to find out that his own father would have been happy to apprentice him to any poet, if only Simonides had ever let his passion for poetry be known. As a parent myself, this glimpse of missed opportunity felt especially heartbreaking.

Unlike her previous two books I've read on this list The King Must Die (1958) and The Bull From the Sea (1962), which followed the mythological figure Theseus, there isn't a lot action in this book, which focuses more on the power of words and poetry, as well as the movement from oral to written tradition. The reliability of the characters however, made for a pretty enthralling read, and considering I had never heard of Simonides of Keos before, definitely had me interested in learning more.

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