Tuesday, March 5, 2013
The Persian Boy by Mary Renault #review
Title: The Persian Boy
Author: Mary Renault
Very few novels have moved me to tears in the end, but this was one of them. Mary Renault succeeds in capturing the depth and breadth of Bagoas’s abiding devotion to Alexander, and brings history to life.
Slow-moving as this story is, it nevertheless succeeded in capturing my imagination despite the fact that I knew more or less how the tale was supposed to go, and that there was no happy ending. And big-ass disclaimer: I don’t think this story is going to be to everyone’s taste. Perhaps what makes it the most for me is that we view imperfect characters (such as Alexander and his eternal love Hephaestion) through Bagoas’s no doubt more than slightly rose-tinted glasses.
Renault also gives the impression that Alexander incessantly made war because he was driven by the need to explore and dominate the world, and that conquering other nations was eventually his raison d’etre and the only thing that kept him motivated.
Yes, the writing is textured and at times flowery, but it was absolutely everything that I enjoy in a story, with slow world-building. Renault brings across sensuality without letting the story become smutty. So, yes, this is a love story. As life is sometimes brutal, in which all story arcs do not tie up neatly, I understand that the novel itself, in remaining true to history, doesn’t have an epic resolution.
Alexander, it can be said, goes out with a whisper and a sigh, rather than the roar of battle. But I am awed, and my imagination has been captured. I shall definitely be reading more of Renault’s works, and if I can capture even a part of her grace of style in my own writing, I shall consider myself fortunate.