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The Priestess and the Slave

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A tale of honor and dishonor, of love, pain, madness, and endurance, told with painstaking historical and archaeological accuracy. Set in Classical Greece in the fifth century BC, The Priestess and the Slave conveys the extraordinary history of the time through the eyes of two narrators - a Delphic Pythia deeply embroiled in the political turmoil earlier in the century, and a young slavewoman, some decades later, living through the terrible plague in Athens and the seemingly endless war against the invincible hoplites of Sparta. Vivid, gritty, and emotionally moving.

116 pages, Paperback

First published April 20, 2009

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About the author

Jenny Blackford

53 books10 followers
Jenny's first full-length book of poetry, THE LOYALTY OF CHICKENS, was published by Pitt Street Poetry in 2017. They also published THE DUTIES OF A CAT, an illustrated suite of her cat poems, in 2013. Her degree was in Classics (Greek and Latin). Pamela Sargent called her subversively feminist historical novella set in ancient Athens and Delphi, THE PRIESTESS AND THE SLAVE, "elegant."

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Profile Image for Shauna.
Author 23 books128 followers
November 7, 2011
Fifth-century BCE Greece has been much studied and written about, but the focus is usually on the men—their wars, their philosophical discussions, the histories they wrote, the plays they went to, their politics and politicians.

The historical novel The Priestess and the Slave, by focusing instead on two women of that time, is a breath of fresh air. For once, we see how half of the fifth-century Greeks lived and what their concerns were. This novel focuses on two very different women, one a priestess at the temple at Delphi, and the other a house slave in Athens. Their lives and those of the other women they interact with are in some ways worlds apart, providing the reader with a multifaceted view of women during perhaps the most momentous century in Greek history.

I particularly like the details of everyday life. The people in this novel don't act against a white screen with a few splotches of suggestive paint here and there. Rather, the worlds of home and temple are fleshed out, so that the reader can see and smell and taste what the characters do.

If you like your historic fiction both engaging and historically accurate, give this book a try.
Profile Image for Ann Schwader.
Author 82 books92 followers
July 22, 2014
(Disclaimer: I received a free audio copy of this novella, in exchange for an honest review.)

Listening to this short novel felt like time-traveling to a new and different version of Greece in the 5th century BC: a version where women actually matter. Focusing on the lives of the Delphic Pythia Thrasulla (early in the century) and the Athenian house slave Harmonia (much later), the braided narrative offers readers a remarkably accurate and entertaining glimpse into everyday life at this critical period.

The heroines’ individual stories are not earth-shattering, but they are suspenseful within the limits of women’s lives in classical Greece. They are also immediately engaging, with so much rich detail that I found myself “rewinding” the audio at numerous points. Fans of Mary Renault and similar authors will appreciate the seamless blending of research and plot. No expository lumps interfered with my enjoyment of Blackford’s clear style.

The author holds a degree in Classics, and has provided a helpful list of additional reading for those who want to delve deeper. The audio narrative by Hollie Jackson is graceful and appropriate for both characters.
Profile Image for Pamela.
Author 144 books188 followers
July 25, 2009
This elegant short novel, set in classical Greece of the 5th century B.C., tells the interwoven stories of Thrasulla, a Pythia who is one of the oracles of Apollo,and Harmonia, a slave in an Athenian household. The author, with degrees in Classics, brings authority and detail to this story of those so often neglected by history, those without power. Women in classical Greece led especially limited lives, but Jenny Blackford brings both suspense and compassion to Harmonia's tale, which is restricted entirely to her master's house, and to Thrasulla's, when she must confront the madness in a Spartan king and the greed of a sister priestess.
Profile Image for Mary Soon Lee.
Author 94 books62 followers
November 24, 2017
This novella alternates between the lives of two women in 5th century BC Greece, one of them a Delphic oracle and the other a slave. Both threads are clearly, knowledgeably, and engagingly written. The author is a Classicist, and she evokes the setting vividly and effectively, while avoiding awkward expository lumps. I found both main characters well-drawn, and Harmonia's story arc (the slave's story) moving. My one reservation is that neither of the two characters shapes their stories, instead they are carried along by events. Yet I cared about both of them, and felt, as I was reading this, as if I had stepped into their world for a little while.
Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews

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