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The Persian Boy by Mary Renault
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The Persian Boy (original 1970; edition 1988)

by Mary Renault

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1,565284,676 (4.12)56
Member:JessyHere
Title:The Persian Boy
Authors:Mary Renault
Info:Vintage (1988), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**
Tags:historical fiction, romance, glbt, war, men

Work details

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault (1970)

  1. 11
    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (jbvm)
  2. 11
    Creation by Gore Vidal (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Set earlier in Persian history, Creation covers some of the same territory as Renault's book. Vidal's writing is somewhat drier.
  3. 02
    Simple Man: The Autobiography of Peter West by Ruadhán J. McElroy (youngsoulrebel)
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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
A great account of Alexander the Great and his travels, and conquests, of the then known world. I would recommend reading the Author's Notes before embarking on the book. I really liked the second half of the book best--from his arrival in India to the end of the book.

Favorite line: "He is gone; and at all times when he was there seem like lost riches". ( )
  elsyd | Aug 10, 2014 |
I love Mary Renault and all her writings. I've probably read "Fire From Heaven" twenty times.

The Persian Boy is a lush read, sucking you into a different time and place where rules are completely different from our modern sensibilities. Everything in this book flows and you're captured and pulled into the past, into the lives of Bagoas and through him Alexander.

Even knowing how things were going to turn out, I was drawn into this story. And more than anything I wished that I could yell at them and change the way things happened so I could get my HEA.

Still, an incredibly beautiful book, highlighting the fact that Mary Renault was way ahead of her time. ( )
  HarperKingsley | Nov 13, 2013 |
It's not very often that you come across a historical novel that portrays events from the vantage point of a eunuch. It's not the easiest perspective for an author to immerse themselves in, but Renault pulls it off with convincing surety.
The narrator of The Persian Boy is Bagoas (based on a real historical person), who was a favorite of Persian king Darius III and went on to become the erômenos or beloved of Alexander the Great. Not much is known about him beyond that but Renault makes him into a very real character, with his own passions and motivations.

The perspective on Alexander the Great is also very interesting. Not everyone may agree with Renault's interpretation, but never-the-less, this is quite possibly the most nuanced and thorough fictional rendering of a very mysterious and complex man.

The complicated emotional triangle between Alexander, Bagoas, and Hephaestion is adroitly imagined. There is some definite homosexuality, some sensuous scenes of such, but nothing particularly explicit.
It's not all psychological drama though, there's plenty of action and colorful battle scenes to keep the reader turning pages. As historical novels go, this one is well above average. ( )
1 vote saturnloft | Sep 14, 2013 |
My introduction to Mary Renault was The King Must Die, the first of two novels about Theseus--it was actually assigned reading in high school. What impressed me so much there was how she took a figure out of myth and grounded him historically. After that I quickly gobbled up all of Renault's works of historical fiction set in Ancient Greece. The two novels about Theseus and the trilogy centered on Alexander the Great are undoubtedly her most famous of those eight novels.

The first book of that trilogy Fire from Heaven, is about the young Alexander of Macedon before his famous conquests. What we have in the second book is the conqueror of the Persian empire--as seen through the eyes of Bagoas, the "Persian boy" of the title--a eunuch--and one of Alexander's lovers. That was probably a shock to me as a sheltered young teen, pre-AIDS when homosexuality just wasn't very visible. What was amazing was the picture of a society where this was not just tolerated but completely accepted, and this novel (and her novel The Last of the Wine) also featuring a homosexual relationship) made an indelible impression on me--more than any kind of lecture on tolerance.

And this was one of those books that cemented my love of historical fiction and fascination with Ancient Greece. If I have any criticism, it's that Renault's Alexander is too much the paragon. You get the feeling Renault was more than in love with her Alexander. But it's certainly not a criticism that occurred to me while I was reading this--given how fully I was under Renault's spell. Nor am I the only one entranced by these books--you can definitely see the influence of the Alexander trilogy on such books as Jo Graham's Stealing Fire about the wake of Alexander's death and Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Aug 26, 2013 |
This is the second book in the trilogy on Alexander the Great by Mary Renault, and I am not as impressed with it as I was with the first; or as impressed as I am of the other great books she has written. Although her prose and description are poetic and almost musical on every page, and her intimate knowledge of Greek history emanates in this book, I am still a little disappointed.
Why? Because it leans too much on the homo-erotic relationship of Alexander and his pretty Persian eunuch. Too much detail is a turn-off for me, but I still like her work. I must admit I read the book through to the end. ( )
  jdgarner68 | Jun 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Renault, Maryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chemla, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Menini, María AntoniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petersen, Jens LouisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
If anyone has the right to be measured by the standards of his own time, it is Alexander.

Hermann Bengtson: The Greeks and the Persians
Dedication
First words
Lest anyone should suppose I am a son of nobody, sold off by some peasant father in a drought year, I may say our line is an old one, though it ends with me.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394751019, Paperback)

“It takes skill to depict, as Miss Renault has done, this half-man, half Courtesan who is so deeply in love with the warrior.”–The Atlantic Monthly

The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander’s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the Macedon army conquered his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes-mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexander’s mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:39 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A slave-boy in the household of Alexander the Great tells about the adventures of the Macedonian king during the last seven years of his life.

(summary from another edition)

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