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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Review: Dido

Author: Adèle Geras
Release date: May 2009 UK (Hardback) April 2010 UK (Paperback)
Genre: Historical fiction / Greek mythology / Historical Fantasy / YA
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Amazon:
While she was still trembling with the complete unexpectedness of what Aeneas had just said and done, he leaned forward a little and kissed her on the mouth. Just one swift, soft touch of his lips on hers and then he turned and walked away. Love can be deadly. Especially when two girls fall for the same man - one a queen, the other her serving girl. Elissa knows she is playing with fire, but she can't resist. Queen Dido suspects nothing, until one fateful night ...Secrets are revealed, hearts are broken and as dawn breaks, a terrible tragedy unfolds. This is a passionate tale of love, betrayal and revenge.

Dido is a deeply moving story. It is the tale of two women who fall in love with the same man. The first is a Queen who builds herself an empire in Carthage after escaping the mad tendencies of her brother. Queen Dido is a strong, beautiful and formidable woman who is perhaps the only Greek female ruler who embraces her power and is not weakened by her female identity. She is almost a visionary. She is a respected ruler who shows great sense in her kindnesses to her people. The second is young Elissa the Queen's handmaiden.

Dido has ruled Carthage wisely until the day that Aeneas arrives with his men on the shores of her country. When Dido meets the wandering Trojan, she falls madly in love with him. Her head is full of constant thoughts of him. Her heart is longing for his touch. Aeneas has a young son Ascanius who is mischievous and quite a handful. Dido arranges for her handmaiden Elissa to be his nursemaid while Aeneas stays in Carthage. Dido goes out of her way to make Aeneas as comfortable as possible and gives him all the luxuries he could possibly desire. But the Gods have already written Aeneas's destiny and he has been told by his mother, the Goddess Aphrodite, that he is to build a great city across the water from Carthage.

Aphrodite is a mother who spoils her son allowing him the fulfilment of all his desires. Dido opens herself up to him and takes him for her husband. She is willing to share her power as ruler with him even though she has always wanted to rule alone. But Aeneas wants a kingdom of his own. I think he was too proud a man to accept that which was offered by a commanding woman. Instead his eyes begin to wander to the innocent Elissa. She is a sweet natured girl who falls for Aeneas's handsome face and gentle manner with his son. Her heart and body are bursting with desire for him. Unfortunately, the Goddess Aphrodite cannot deny her son anything and so follows the great betrayal of Dido.

I felt really moved by this story. The strength of love a mother has for a child should also extend to not giving in to what they think they want. It makes me think of the increase in childhood obesity and parents not having the strength to say no to all these junk foods and sweet treats. My motto is everything in moderation. Perhaps this does not apply to love but perhaps it should if the choices you make will break the hearts of those you love.

Adèle Geras has written another beautiful masterpiece. Characters touch your heart as you are woven into the narrative and feel their shame, their joy and their heartbreak. Cubby was my favourite character from this novel. He was the most innocent observer and showed so much loyalty. It really endeared him to me. I pitied Dido but I couldn't help but think she suffocated people with her expectations. Elissa was not as naive as she made herself out to be. Geras inspires such passionate feelings towards her characters that the ending of this novel left me with a deep feeling of sorrow. Dido is a masterpiece which builds slowly weaving history and fantasy to create a most explosive story. Truly excellent!

Thank you to Random House Children's Books for sending me the book for review.


This Miss Loves to Read said...

I was always fond of Dido's story because of Purcell's opera and her tearful, but beautiful lament. Great review! It makes me want to read this book. Your review is very convincing.

Sasha said...

I love the premise of this book! I really want to read it :)

Shweta said...

I just read ur character connection post and all the reviews of the Adele Geras books. I must say you have put them on top of my TBR. I love Greek mythology so I know I just need to read them all

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I really loved this too. My heart broke for both Dido and Elissa.

Lauren said...

Excellent review, Becky. I hadn't really thought that much about Aphrodite's motivation but I absolutely agree with you. (And about part of a good parent's role being to set boundaries. Hell yeah.)

Splendibird said...

I got this out from the library a couple of weeks ago and haven't gotten round to reading it, but thanks to your beautiful review I will certainly be reading it next! Your writing is so lovely!