Stealing Athena
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Stealing Athena

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3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  756 ratings  ·  149 reviews
Stealing Athena is the story of two women, separated by centuries but united by their association with some of the world's greatest and most controversial works of art. Aspasia, a philosopher and courtesan to visionary politician Pericles during Athens's Golden Age, defies societal restrictions to become fiercely influential in Athens' power circle. Mary, the Countess of E...more
Paperback, 454 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by Anchor (first published 2008)
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Carey
If you have been to the British Museum in London you could not have missed the Elgin Marbles, those lovely white carvings taken from the Parthenon in Athens. What you might not have done is imagined the arduous task it was to move them there. In this historical novel Karen Essex has painted the picture for us of the personal lives of the people involved.

In 1799 Lord Elgin was appointed ambassador to Constantinople. He was a newlywed and took his wife, Mary, with him to his post. He was glad to...more
Lauren
I stopped worrying about historical accuracy or purple prose writing @ p.100 and gave myself over to the book which was just good, old-fashioned fun. Spoiler: Lord Elgin was a shit.
Alan
This novel is the latest entry in the genre that proclaims that behind every mediocre man in history was an equally mediocre woman. Here we have the story of Lord Elgin, chiefly remembered for removing the ancient marble sculptures and friezes that decorated the Parthenon in Athens and transporting them to the British Museum where they remain today. The Greeks are still trying to get them back. This book examines Elgin's story from the point of view of Mary, his feisty Scottish wife.
We also get...more
Suzanne
"Ah, the Caryatids. My masterpieces. Are they not lovely? For me, they represent the burden of women, who must carry blame for so many things of which they are innocent."
(quote from Pheidos from the novel)

Main characters Mary and Aspasia are definitely such women. That's all I will say to refrain from spoilers.


I loved this book mainly because it was like no historical novel I read before. I had not yet read anything that took place in Greece or Turkey at any time, nor had I read anything at all...more
Ben Babcock
The first half of the book was a little erotic for my tastes, but it's fine if you like that sort of thing. It just seemed like a page didn't go by without mentioning sex or arousal or issuing some sort of innuendo. This calmed down toward the end of the book, by which time I actually found myself empathizing with Mary quite a bit

The book appealed to my dormant desire to learn more about the Elgin marbles. Essex writes with confidence and an intimate tone that makes the period and the characters...more
Lorri Coburn
Stealing Athena parallels the lives of 18th Century Mary Nisbett Elgin, wife of British ambassador to Turkey, and Aspasia, concubine of Pericles, ruler of Athens at the time of the building of the Parthenon. These were women ahead of their time, outspoken and influential in periods in which women had few rights. While these women were more privileged than the average woman, they still suffered from legal constraints placed on women, with some very serious and unfair consequences.

Lord Elgin was...more
A.
I did not like anyone in this book, but it was a great read.
Janellyn51
I really enjoyed this book, and again I say, I simply cannot get over how it is possible that women had so few, let's say NO rights, to thier own property once they were married. I just finished a book called Murder at the Priory, which again illustrated that in England, once you married what was yours, became the property of your husband, and they took well advantage of that situation. In Stealing Athena, the depth to which Mary Nesbit got taken by her husband, Lord Elgin, it just makes my bloo...more
Carrie
Stealing Athena by Karen Essex tells the story of two historical women, two women whose names I had never heard before picking up this book, but whose stories are fascinating.

Mary Nesbit convinces her father to allow her to marry Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, because she desires to marry for love. Her father is not convinced of his worthiness - especially financially - but agrees to the match. Very shortly after marrying, Lord Elgin is named the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, a...more
Nancy
Historic fiction two powerful women, Lady Mary Elgin who is married to a diplomate and Aspasia who lives in the time of Perikles. Both women involved in the mystery and the controversy that is the Elgin Marbles. Mary's husband is supposedly "saving" antiquities of Greece from the Acropolis and the Parthenon. However he has bankrupted himself and is focused on spending Mary's money too. Divorces and scandal follow. Aspasia is woman who is a thinker and is much more powerful than any woman of her...more
Amanda
A fairly decent historical fiction, especially if you are interested in art. While I was not particularly impressed with the details or style, nor was the story itself overly memorable, it was a pleasant enough way to spend a few evenings before retiring.
Kaydon_the_dino


It was an enjoyable story but I was ultimately displeased by it in a few ways. We don't hear any of Aspasia's story until we are already a third of the way through Mary's, and even then maybe four chapters of the entire book are hers. Secondly, the first part of the book is rather slow, meandering it's way around the Turkish court, then it picks up and races through to the end. The ending feels extremely hurried and rushed. Mary's story is told in the third person, while Aspasia's is in the fir...more
Tressa
Stealing Athena did not hold my interest; I stopped listening to the audiobook.
Bonnie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara W
Fiction book about the Elgin Marbles taken from Greece. Flips between the Elgins' story in the 1800s and Perikles and Asapia (forgive the spelling of the Greek names, I don't have my book on me) in Ancient Greece. The author's note at the end was really thorough and helpful on where to find additional sources which I appreciated.
Susan
I thought I would have a hard time bouncing back and forth between the two main characters (and their corresponding time periods) - not so. The plots are interestingly interwoven, and the writing, while at times a bit thick and awkward, was generally very pleasing.
One of the better historical fiction novels I've read in some time.
Brenda DiVincenzo
Having studied Greek mythology and art history in college I thought I knew about the Parthenon. I am glad to learn new things but this book lacked something and I am not sure what. At times it seemed contrived but at others it flowed well.
Lindsey Cook
Overall a good book, however the beginning could use alot of work. It is very slow getting into, that i felt giving up a few times. The story is very interesting, and while maybe not 100% historically accurate is very close.
Erica
Very boring. I love the idea of structuring a novel to highlight the parallels in the lives of two women separated by two thousand years, but Essex apparently does not have the skills to white such a novel.
Janine
Interesting, and lots of research done, but the telling is less than graceful. The first chapters set in ancient Athens are cumbersome.
Joan
In the beginning, I wanted to shake Lady Elgin, but then, she changed. I still can't believe she gave up her children. Good read.
Shannon Dunn
The front story was a little too factual - event after event after event. I began to wish for more of the story within the story.
Betsy
This story broke my mama heart, but it was certainly true to the period it describes. Overall, a good, solid read.
Li Wu
This was a slow read for me, but it's interesting. Makes me appreciate even more of all the freedom we have now!!
Rose
A surprising lack of real conflict until the last 150 pages. THOSE pages were good.
Vicki Cline
This tells the stories of two women involved with the Elgin Marbles, originally part of the Parthenon in Athens but currently on display at the British Museum. One story is about Mary Nisbet, the wife of Lord Elgin, who was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during Napoleon's time, and obtained permission from the Turkish government to remove the carvings from Greece. The second one is about Aspasia, the companion of Pericles, the leader of Athens during the fifth century BC, who got the Parthenon...more
Brittany
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cheryl
Okay -- this isn't the authors fault ... but the narrator's and I do feel badly because it is a bit of a nitpick, but, I just started this and the narrator gives Mary, the Countess of Elgin an Irish accent --- she sounds almost like Maureen O'Hara in "The Quiet Man" so it's a bit off-putting. I'm sure I'll get over it but initially it's thrown me for a loop.

This was an interesting story that I had never heard before. A little overlong it switched between Mary's story and the story of Aspasia the...more
Lauren
I really enjoyed this one! Not only is the cover beautiful, the storyline was very good as well.

Aspasia is a courtesan and philosopher in ancient Athens, unable to marry her master due to a law he himself has set in place. Even though a woman's place is to be hidden and quiet, she sets out to argue logic, find truths, and help others with her advice. Throughout the course of her story, we meet the artists and sculptors that created some of the famous statues and friezes, and how she influenced t...more
Stasy
I really enjoyed this book. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres within fiction. History fascinates me and I enjoy reading it, but sometimes, the authors of straight history are not the best at relating their information and research in a way that makes for pleasurable reading. That is where historical fiction comes in.

According to her notes at the end of the book, Essex stayed as close to actual events as possible, only once placing Mary Nesbit in a place where she was not during her...more
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22528
I'm the author of DRACULA IN LOVE, Stealing Athena, Leonardo's Swans, Kleopatra, Pharaoh, and Bettie Page: Life of a Pin Up Legend. I am also an active screenwriter and an award-winning journalist. I divide my time between Los Angeles and London, where I moved a couple of years ago to soak in the atmosphere. Helps when you are writing a gothic Victorian novel.

Please see my new blog, "Women, Histo...more
More about Karen Essex...
Leonardo's Swans Dracula in Love Kleopatra (Kleopatra, #1) Pharaoh (Kleopatra, #2) Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend

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“I am more human than rational.” 1 likes
“She knew that it was not smart to address her concerns about money directly, for men despised women who confronted them in this way. She knew that the smart wife, especially one no longer willing to parlay sexual favors, would find a way to bring up matters sweetly, pouring honey all over the problem before showing it to the husband. But she was out of patience.” 0 likes
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