Theodora by Stella Duffy

In sixth century Constantinople society consisted of two factions – the Blues and the Greens – and the inhabitants were born into one or the other, very much like Glasgow. Theodora’s father had been killed by his own bear leaving his wife to bring up her small girls on her own. She had been determined to keep her daughters out of the circus but when her faction, the Greens, refused to support them financially she had no option but to marry again and set her daughters to be trained in circus performing, dancing, tumbling and when they were 12 or 13 they would become prostitutes.

It was a hard life, particularly for Theodora whose character was a mixture of obstinacy and determination, she was positively ‘thrawn’! But her personality takes her from being a circus performer to concubine of Hecebolus, Governor of Pentapolis, and when he tires of her she leaves, taking some of his most precious possessions with her.

Knowing that Hecebolus would send his men after her, Theodora attempts to get back to Constantinople with no success but she falls in with a Christian sect and just when she thinks that she is wanted as a Christian, she realises that they want to use her in much the same way that everyone else has – prostitution, if necessary.

This is a well written book, it’s the first one by Stella Duffy which I’ve read so I don’t know how it compares with her other books. She’s very good at evoking the atmosphere of thronging marketplaces and heat. There are quite a lot of swear words in it, necessary to convey the atmosphere of the circus and those involved with it, so you might not want to give it to anyone of a prudish disposition.

As you would expect from a book about a prostitute there is sex aplenty but thankfully there are no graphic descriptions of it because that can make me feel a wee bit squeamish at times.

I didn’t absolutely adore it but it was entertaining and I’ll be trying out more books by Stella Duffy.

As I’m a Virago First Look member I was sent Theodora by Virago for review.

2 thoughts on “Theodora by Stella Duffy

    • Jo,
      It isn’t a subject or setting which really interests me, so I was quite surprised to find it very readable. I’m going to see if my library has any of her books as I’m trying not to buy any – again!

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