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Selene of Alexandria

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Selene strives to be a doctor-hard enough for women in AD 412 in Alexandria, Egypt. Add a Machiavellian bishop, a powerful governor and a famous Lady Philosopher; and Selene must survive riots and political plots, as well as plague.

350 pages, Paperback

First published November 1, 2009

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About the author

Faith L. Justice

11 books59 followers
Faith L. Justice is a science geek and history junkie who writes award-winning novels, short stories, and articles in her historic Brooklyn home. She’s published in venues such as Salon.com, Writer's Digest, Strange Horizons, The Copperfield Review and Circles in the Hair.

You can read her stories, interviews with famous authors, and sample chapters of her novels at her website . Check out her blog for historical fiction book reviews, interviews with HF authors, "History in the News" roundups and giveaways.

Faith lives with her husband, daughter and the required gaggle of cats. For fun, she likes to dig in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.

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Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for Faith Justice.
Author 11 books59 followers
December 23, 2020
Since I'm the author, no one would give any credence to my review, so I want to take the time and make the space to thank all the folks who have reviewed Selene of Alexandria here, at Library Thing, on Amazon.com, BN.com, Smashwords, personal blogs and all the other places reviews keep popping up. I really appreciate the time people have taken to, not only read the book, but make their thoughts known to fellow readers. Writing is a notoriously lonely business. The only time authors know we have touched someone/given them pleasure or something to think about, is if the reader takes the time to tell us. Believe me, we appreciate it. It's been tremendously gratifying to read the reviews. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Re-read for 10th Anniversary audio book QA in Februray 2020.
Profile Image for Shomeret.
1,037 reviews200 followers
August 26, 2011
There are a number of novels dealing with Hypatia that portray her as if she were a feminist romance heroine. I commend Faith Justice's authenticity and restraint with regard to Hypatia. Although I confess to enjoying the legend of Hypatia even though I know it has little resemblance to fact. I have read Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska which is the most authoritative biography of Hypatia.

I very much liked Selene, the central character. Reading about women in the past who studied medicine while facing opposition from physicians is always interesting to me. Selene is wonderfully determined.

Unfortunately, I did have a problem with this book that is a serious one for me, though some might cry political correctness.

Profile Image for Jane.
1,495 reviews169 followers
February 13, 2019
Fascinating, well-written account of 5th century Alexandria, through the story of Selene, an upper-class girl, who cherishes and fulfills her ambitions of becoming a doctor and escapes the circumscribed life of marriage, running a home, and children under the thumb of an all-powerful husband. We are also thrust into the tumultuous years of that time, with religious dissention and riots between pagans, Jews and various Christian sects, the Machiavellian Patriarch Cyril, the famous woman philosopher, the pagan Hypatia, and the well-meaning, stalwart Augustal Prefect, Orestes, who tries to maintain peace among all Alexandrines. The ending was sad but no doubt inevitable.

The author's historical research was impeccable. I thought her portrayal of Hypatia, one of the most accurate I've read: that of an older woman, filled with the wisdom of years. Characters were believable and most aroused my sympathy and admiration. Though physical descriptions and backgrounds of the historical figures were from the author's imagination as she herself admits in her Notes, they rang true. I guess when Cyril was made a saint, his hand in any horrific events was overlooked and emphasis placed on the importance of his writings on church doctrine.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Waheed Rabbani.
Author 7 books23 followers
September 18, 2010
Medical and Philosophical Teachings, Romance, Witchcraft Accusations and Mob Violence in the 410s AD of Roman Alexandria

While most of us are familiar with the early Egyptian historical periods, during the reign of the Pharos, Alexander, Cleopatra, Caesar, Mark Anthony and others, little is known about a Greek lady philosopher named Hypatia. Faith Justice has chosen to pen a historical fiction novel during Hypatia’s life and times in Alexandria during the 410s AD. By then although Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, a significant populace of other believers, Jews and pagans, existed in Egypt. The civilian rule was administered by the Constantinople appointed Prefect (governor), while the Patriarch (bishop) presided over the Christian church affairs.
This heart-wrenching story is narrated through the eyes of a young girl, Selene, born to a land-owning Christian family. Her mother having died, she is brought up by her ailing father and an elder brother, although they are busy in business and other duties. A second brother, her childhood playmate, joins the army and leaves for service overseas. Hence, Selene, having to grow up on her own, develops an independent mind. Even though it was most uncharacteristic for girls of her time, she decides to become a physician. Her desire blossoms when she witnesses the death of her beloved mother and decides to “thwart death any way she could.” She shears her hair, disguises herself as a boy and with the help of her brother attends Lady Hypatia’s school. Hypatia is taken in by Selene’s courage and helps her—with some assistance from the recently appointed Prefect—to overcome her father’s vehement objections to embark on a medical education. Herein lays Justice’s skillfulness in narrating the story. We are able to observe the lady philosopher through the trials and tribulations and romance that Selene encounters.
Although a movie, "Agora," on Hypatia’s life was made in 2009, one of the reviewers on its debut at the Cannes Film Festival [1] had remarked that a problem with the movie is that it struggles to properly develop the romantic side of the story, Justice’s novel has no such “problem.” While, keeping with the historical facts, Hypatia remains virginal, there is no dearth of romance in the story. Justice has skillfully woven three love-stories into the plot to add much interest to make the novel into a historical romance epic.
Readers’ interest will also be maintained by all the intricate details of the 5th Century life in Alexandria, the surroundings, buildings, people’s clothing, food and everything that will perk our imagination and enable us to walk and sit beside the characters. The fruits of the research that Justice began in 1980 show amply. For instance when describing the top of the sarcophagus of her girl-friend’s coffin—that another less careful writer may have simply referred to as a ‘cover’—Justice writes: “… The lid standing on end next to the coffin was covered with Christian symbols – an ankh, a lamb in a meadow – mixed with traditional Egyptian death scenes. The Sky Goddess spread her wings over the world in protection while an ibis speared fish in the Mother Nile …” Such evocative writing would surely make the cover appear before our eyes.
Selene puts her medical knowledge to good use on several occasions. She brings her father back to life after a severe heart-attack and administers first aid to victims of the religious riots. It was her timely cesarean on her girl-friend—who had died moments earlier during child birth—that saves the baby. But it gets her in trouble with the jealous physician, who complains to the Patriarch of Selene’s unqualified surgery. Selene gets dragged first through a ‘malpractice’ trial and then a charge of witchcraft. The Patriarch, who had been systematically engaged in having his people riot and expel the Jews and pagans from the city, takes this opportunity to excite the inhabitants against the aging Lady Hypatia. Selene is caught in the conflict between the fanatical Patriarch and the Roman authoritarian Prefect, who develops a soft corner in his heart for her. While historians have been searching, over the centuries, for justifications for Hypatia’s unpopularity with the Christian church, through skillful plot twists, Justice has provided us a plausible reason for that unspeakable event conducted by an unruly mob.
Selene of Alexandria, at 346 pages it a moderate length book that usually requires a few sittings to complete, but Selene’s last 100 or so pages are so engrossing that they will definitely make one read those to finish, regardless of the lateness of the hour. Having closed the book, it’s the kind of novel that lingers for quite some time in one’s mind. Finally, Justice has introduced another charming aspect of the novel. Readers and book club members would likely spend many thoughtful hours debating its ending.
Reviewed By: Waheed Rabbani, author of “Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest,” available from Amazon.
[1] Ref: www.firstshowing.net/2009/05/17/canne...
Profile Image for Amy Lignor.
Author 10 books218 followers
September 17, 2011
As a lifelong daughter of a research librarian - and an absolute historic "guru and geek" - I was so pleased to see this book. In fact, this book in my hands is like giving chocolate to a child (I babbled so much about how much I liked it, that I got sent to my room).

The white limestone walls of Alexandria once rose from the Mediterranean Sea like a beacon of light. The most intuitive people and the most amazing minds throughout history sat in Alexandria's famous libraries and museums, speaking to the crowds of people about the past, present and future, and making monumental discoveries that are still in use today. Ptolemy was one of the greats, as well as The Lady Philosopher, Hypatia. In this book, we are included in the life of Selene, a young (fictional) character, who has the most amazing life and times that any young lady could possibly hope for.

As the daughter of a wealthy councilor, we begin to watch Selene grow up and meet the demands of her station. At first, she is just a young girl running through the streets with her brother and his friend. Long and gangly like a boy, she has the "tomboy" persona down to a tee - running, playing, and loving the world going on around her. As she grows up, she is also the head of her household; the female who runs the kitchen, servants, and makes sure her house is in order for her busy father. Her own servant's name is Rebecca and the stories of the rich and poor - master and servant - are told brilliantly through Rebecca's eyes.

Selene, however, is beyond strong-willed, which serves her well in AD 412, when rich Christian families, such as her own, met up with a brand new Patriarch named Cyril, who wanted nothing more than to stand against the Prefect, Orestes, who was sent to rule over Alexandria and her people. Selene, at this time, is supposed to be a girl being readied for a suitable marriage and not the young, gifted woman she is, who wants nothing more than to become a physician (man's work) and heal people. When her older brother Peter arrives back in the city (a young soldier who is now best friends with Orestes) Selene finds herself captured by the Prefect's intelligence and strength. She begs her father, brother, and anyone who will listen for a "shot" at becoming the doctor she's always wanted to be. When she shears off her long flowing hair and dresses in the robes of a boy to meet up with Hypatia, she has the luckiest day of her life. The Lady Philosopher sees in Selene parts of herself - the will, longing, and brilliance to help people. Hypatia becomes Selene's muse and, not only convinces Selene's father that this is the way for his child, but also sets Selene up with classes and teachers - even a medicinal guru named 'Nut' - who will lead Selene to her dream.

Now, anyone who has read about this time period knows that the Christian church was "banging" their head and everyone elses' heads at the time, to turn all of Alexandria into God-loving people, where they would release their "pagan" ways and turn to the Lord for everything. Cyril, the Patriarch, is going to do all in his power - through pain, prejudice, and tyranny - to make sure that he brings every Alexandrian under his wing and terminate all other gods and goddesses and modes of prayer. Selene becomes embroiled in an all out war, as she sees her beloved Alexandria fall down around her ears.

For anyone who does not know the story of the fantastic Hypatia, I will omit some of the more fearsome facts about this time period - because, trust me, you will not be disappointed in her story. In fact, the woman was, and still remains, one of the most revered female philosophers in the world. I am also blown away and enthralled completely with the work this author, Faith Justice, has done. For seventeen years she has 'hit the books' and studied every piece of information that is available from this time period. The rioting factions of church versus state; the romance between children who have grown up in an unstable world - each piece of their lives has been studied and recorded with beauty, brilliance, and brutal honesty.

Run to the bookstore and buy this for yourself. This is a 'must-have' after-Christmas present for you readers out there. In the pages, you will walk down Canopic Street, sit in the shaded colonnades with geniuses, and stare at the bright painted statues carved into the limestone niches that line the fantastical world of ancient Alexandria. You will walk up the steps of the immense Pharos Lighthouse and stare off at the ships in the harbor as they wait for the next distress signal against their fair city. And, best of all, you will sit in that grand library and meet the most remarkable people from a time long past. What more could you want?

Profile Image for Jessie Marie.
168 reviews87 followers
October 20, 2011

My favorite genre. My favorite time period. Even a feminine heroine and a certain level on unpredictability. It’s a match made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. I started this off by mentioning everything it gave me. I can’t imagine what more I needed. A rating scale I follow says that a 3 star rating is that it was a so-so read. I think it was less than so-so, perhaps even mediocre. Somewhere in between, I think so.

Even people who don’t read historical fiction as obsessively as I do would like this, I should think. And they do! Reviewers on Amazon and GoodReads raved about this one. I believe I’m the first to not like it all that much… So here’s what happened for me.

I knew nothing about this time period for Alexandria, Egypt. I typically read about Greece and Rome in this era. Before this, I’d heard no more than a whisper of Hypatia. Orestes (this one, anyway. Who hasn't read the Oresteia in some fashion or another?) and “Saint” Cyril were completely unbeknownst to me. So, what I can take away from this is that I learned loads. I met some characters that actually existed 1600 years ago and that always pleases me when reading historical fiction. It’s really the only place that can happen. But I digress…

Because I like to end on a good note…

The Bad
The author mentioned somewhere that she wanted to get a viewpoint on the political and religious turmoil in this state from the eyes of a common person exposed to it. Hence the entrance of Selene, Philip, Rebecca, etc., all of the author’s imagination. Great. I love when authors do that. They mix enough of the actual history with fiction that it makes sense. But the issue I have here is how predictable these characters were. It seemed that they could do nothing surprising. No cliffhangers. Call me a sucker for cliffhangers but I was bored with them. I knew what they would do/say/think/react to next. Not ver batim but I fancy myself experienced enough to have a good clue. I realize that there is a certain level of predictability that comes with the creation of a character for a novel. There’s only so much one can think up without sounding like a mad person who is intentionally trying to make the wackiest character out there. But when it’s blatantly obvious to a non-writer who the fictional characters are and who are based off real people, one has to wonder.

A piece of me wants to mention the preachy nature of this book. But I realize that that was really the point. Religion was meant to be a main focal point. I just sorta felt like it was being forced down my throat on several occasions – evidence suggesting atheism, I might add.

The Good
The author did an amazing job with the characters Cyril, Orestes, Hypatia, etc. I love them. I remember them. I feel like I knew them and I want to read more about them. They were engaging, dynamic, exciting and unpredictable. They felt like real people. Everytime Hypatia and Orestes had conversation, I was enraptured. To me, they shined enough that the other characters disappeared into the shadows. Was that the point? I doubt it seriously.

I also think the author showcased the major events well. The purge of the Jews and ensuing Plague, the various riots, even women in professions in this era were all well described and invigorating. There’s no doubt, it kept me clicking the page forward on my Kindle. I just wasn’t thrilled silly.

Sometimes I think I’m too harsh, too critical of these writers when I’m not a writer myself. Who am I to judge this person’s work? But I can’t help it. Am I too hung up on the fictional characters bit? I’d like to go back and say “yeah, I should let that go”. But this is historical fiction. She’s supposed to do well on the research and the made-up parts. And if there are so many writers out there who do this so well (Diana Gabaldon, Paullina Simons, Arthur Golden, etc.), why can’t she? She’s got to be held to a higher standard because she writes for a genre that’s composed of two equally important parts. We’re meant to believe this and I wasn’t sold.

I don’t particularly recommend this. My best suggestion when I review something as not great or worse, is to go out and read it yourself to form your own opinions if you so choose. My word is that of a 23-year-old non-writer, novice reviewer.
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 26 books293 followers
July 5, 2010
I almost gave this a three, but the last quarter and the surprise ending brought it up to a four.

The beginning starts great. Readers meet Selene, a young lady of a reputable family Alexandria, Egypt. Note that this is an Alexandria ruled by Rome so it is actually a part of Rome in this particular time. A new Prefect, Orestes is just arriving to take the reigns of the city that is being ruined by religion wars. While Alexandria's Christians and Jews are constantly rioting in the streets and Orestes is struggling to maintain order and keep both sides happy, Selene is trying to become a doctor. She begins this difficult task by deceiving her father, dressing as a boy, and obtaining a meeting with the famous female philospher, Lady Hypatia. From that point on, it's apprenticeship and ministering to the sick. Selene is a very likeable and very strong heroine.

Cyrus, Alexandria's "head priest" has other ideas tho. He keeps inflaming the religion wars and he has his evil heart set on the downfall of Hypatia. He intends to use Selene to get to the lady philospher.

I did not like the parts that focused on Cyrus or the religious strife in Alexandria. Tho important to the outcome of the story, these parts and the religious arguments and discussions just bored me to death. It simply doesn't interest me. However, the ending picked up wonderfully with no end of excitement. There are deaths of family and friends, an accusation of witchcraftery, a trial, an arrest, an escape, and a surprise ending. I wouldn't have chose it to end the way it did but I must admit, I was surprised.

A decent, four star read.

Profile Image for Aimee.
451 reviews47 followers
July 21, 2011
Selene is set in Alexandria in AD 412. It is the story of Selene, a young woman who wishes to break free from her father's expectations for her to marry and have children to become a physician and spend her life helping others in need. We follow her as she works to convince her father to let her study to be a physician and then see her struggle to be the only woman studying medicine at that time. She faces many dangers along the way, Alexandria was a dangerous place filled with many different people who would wish to do a woman healer harm.

This was a really well written book that I enjoyed reading. The plot was interesting and moved the book along well and the main character, Selene, was likable and given lots of time in the book to grow and mature. The part of the book that I was most impressed with was the amount of detail the author used to describe the characters and more importantly the city of Alexandria. I really felt like I was in this amazing city from the descriptions of all parts of Alexandria. It was obvious a lot of time and research went into writing this book and this made the book all that more enjoyable to read.

The book also introduces us to Hypatia, a famous philosopher in Alexandria. Hypatia's story is just as interesting as Selene's and I found myself wanting to find out more about this important woman from this time. I am so glad I read this book and got the chance to learn so much about Alexandria, Hypatia, and what a young woman faced growing up during this time.
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
52 reviews1 follower
November 13, 2011
I really wanted to like this book as an HFiction group choice and as a new writer...and I bought it despite the price which was three times a bookstore paperbook of a mainstream writer.
The setting is 5 star and well described with good imagery and detail that takes us into this bustling city and its conflicts.
But what is it about...I struggled to find what the plot was and the pace was way way too slow. In fact, I wasn't clear what the story was or the 'character arc' i.e how the heroine changes. She comes over as a Mid-West sort of cheerleader and I'm not sure that fits.
A good editor from a publisher would spot the plodding pace and perhaps cut or said how to carry the reader along and that is what may hold this back.
The book is written with love and dedication...it shines through with great research...but that isn't enough.
I give it 2 stars on the basis of being unclear what the story was or what the heroine's battle is beyind growing up and that wasn't enough.
Profile Image for J.M. Cornwell.
Author 18 books21 followers
August 22, 2013

I chose this book because Hypatia the woman philosopher was mentioned and I thought she would have a central presence in the story. She does and she doesn't.

The new patriarch of the Catholic church was Cyril, a young Reader whose uncle, Theophilus, was dying and determined his nephew should take his place as Patriarch. Had Timothy, a much older and more moderate man, become Patriarch the history of that time would likely have been very different. Selene is the daughter of a council member and a very unusual girl of 14. She doesn't want to be a wife and mother; she wants to be a physician. Women of her class did not become physicians. Freedmen -- and women -- had more latitude than a high born lady.

There were women physicians, medicas, that worked in charity wards and hospitals as what would be seen as nurses in the modern world. Selene is much more. She becomes a physician in the truest sense of the world, studying with young men. She apprenticed to Mother Nut who was an Egyptian medica, a herbalist and local wise woman, who tended to the Jews and the poor. In order to study medicine, Selene must approach Hypatia and ask for her assistance, which is how Hypatia is connected to this novel.

Hypatia was important in her time as a counsellor and philosopher of renown hated by the more zealous of the new Christian sect because she was pagan and therefore evil, an agent of Satan. Faith L. Justice describes Hypatia as a petite woman with a powerfully trained voice and a good moral compass. She is respected and adds historical truth to Selene of Alexandria.

Justice uses some of the historical facts of that time in creating a believable background for Selene while Selene is a finely drawn character of flaws and brilliance that is quite memorable. Selene's struggle with following her heart versus the weight of family obligations, the dangerous times in which she lives, and social strictures and expectations illustrates what has been the limitations of patriarchal societies and the often fatal difficulties of being an intelligent woman who wants and reaches for more than she is allowed.

The men in Selene's life are by turns strong and weak, compassionate and emotionally constipated, and as focused on their needs as Selene is focused on her own needs and desires -- to practice medicine and heal those in need. Selene makes no distinctions between the upper and lower classes. Everyone who is ill and needs her help, especially the poor and marginalized, gets her full attention. What Justice does very well is demonstrate how Selene must choose who to help when her resources are limited. Justice sets Selene in an infirmary full of children dying of disease and forces her to choose which ones to help. Although the reasoning is logical, the way in which Selene deals with the wrenching choice is true to her character and adds weight and depth to her character.

Faith L. Justice gives her interpretation of the historical events in the early 5th century Alexandria, especially where the story touches on Cyril, the new Patriarch, Orestes, the governor of Alexandria sent from Constantinople, and Hypatia. Historical accuracy is good even as she chooses how to demonstrate Cyril's actions and thoughts given what is available from the subjective histories. Justice is even handed in her treatment of what was a very volatile period.

Selene of Alexandria is an engrossing story, a fictional novel set in a very authentic 5th century Alexandria. It is an admirable novel.

I would, however, suggest Faith L. Justice take another look at the formatting for Kindle. There are quite a few formatting errors and closer editing for grammar, word choice, spelling, and repetitions would be helpful, hence the 4/5 star rating. None of the errors, however, significantly detract from the story or from Justice's adept blending of fact and fiction.

Profile Image for Siobian.
98 reviews4 followers
June 11, 2011
It is 412 A.D., and while Selene should be joining her friends in getting married and starting a family, instead she dreams of becoming a physician. She seeks out Hypatia, Alexandria's famous Lady Philosopher, to become her patron and mentor. Hypatia agrees to support Selene and introduces her to teachers at the Museum; Selene begins her studies, happily unaware of the political unrest in the city. However, Cyril, the new Patriarch of Alexandria's Catholic Church, is determined to drive out pagan influences and views Hypatia as a roadblock in his plan to make Alexandria a completely Christian city. Soon, Selene cannot ignore the change in the wind and must choose between her life and her dreams.

I've always been fascinated by ancient Egypt, but usually that fascination revolved around Cleopatra, King Tut (or other kings and queens), the pyramids, and mummies. Selene of Alexandria was one of the first books I have read that did not involve Egyptian royalty or pyramids. It was interesting to read about Egypt from the viewpoint of an everyday person and learn more about Hypatia, who seems like she lead a captivating, and tragic, life. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, especially Selene and Rebecca, and following Selene on her adventures around her beloved city. Cyril was quite an evil villain and a good example of what happens when people let ambition, pride, greed, and power go to their head. It was apparent that the author did her research, shown by the attention to detail in the descriptions throughout the book of setting, food, clothing, as well as ideals and beliefs people had about medicine, faith, and a woman's place in society. This novel completely submersed me in the time period and I became caught up in the dramas surrounding each of the characters. I thought the book flowed smoothly and the writing was well done; overall, I thought this was a great debut novel.
Profile Image for Jennifer Defoy.
282 reviews27 followers
August 4, 2010
This book has everything... It was such a great story.

I LOVED Selene, she was such a great character. I'm really finding it hard to describe her. There were times when she was so strong, emotionally, and yet other times when she would let her emotions take over. She was so strong-willed and yet still understood her place in her world and did as she was supposed to do. I guess the best way I can think to describe her would be, she was a real woman.

I was very attached to Selene. She was just so real. While the story focused around Selene there were so many other things that were going on around her. Even when the story didn't focus on Selene she always managed to get herself right there in the middle of what was going on. There were times when I wanted to knock some sense into her, but I knew that she could handle whatever situations she was placed in.

The ending was great. While not everyone had a happy ending it was very realistic. There were a few unexpected twists that really added to the tension of the story, but they made for great reading.

The story was so great, it had everything. It was exciting, endearing, suspenseful, and emotional. There was a very tense felling around everything. The fight for power in the city, the fight for Selene to get what she wanted out of life, the fight of religion in the city. Everything was marked with tension.

This one did take me a while to read. I spent many hours with Selene, Hypatia, Phillip, Rebecca, and Orestes. I'm not sure why it took so long for me to read it, as it was a fairly fast-paced story.

Despite the time it took me to finish it was well worth the read. It was beautifully written, it was an intelligent story, and it was easy to escape into Selene's world.
3 reviews
November 10, 2012
I don't like saying unpleasant things about a book. It seems to me writers have a hard enough time. But to claim this book is well researched is very misleading. There's so little known about Hypatia that research into her actual life could take maybe two hours. Various people complain that books mentioning Hypatia aren't accurate. Excuse me, but what do we really know? What's accurate mean? Scholars pride themselves on their research. I've read their research. It's like research into Shakespeare. (Read Billy Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage) No one really knows who he was. The same goes for Hypatia. Scholars have their own agenda and they're happy to push it as fact.

Plus, this book is not well written, not well organized, and not particularly interesting. It's in desperate need of an good editor's touch.

I loved Flow Down Like Silver: Hypatia of Alexandria. It may not come any closer to the real Hypatia of Alexandria (although I strongly suspect it does), but it's a beauty of a read. It flows as its title does from science as it was understood then, through the philosophy we know she read and taught (and can extrapolate much of the way her mind worked from), to the alchemy that was not as we understand it now, but was then a mystical practice. And so forth and so on.

Basically I find it irritating to hear a book called well-researched when there's nothing really to research except time and place.
Profile Image for Allie.
102 reviews12 followers
September 29, 2011
Selene is a rich man's daughter living in Alexandria in 412 AD. Not content with the life of a noble Christian woman, she seeks knowledge and freedom. After meeting Lady Philosopher Hypatia and convincing her father to allow her to continue her studies, Selene enters the Museum as a student. She excels at her classes, much to the delight of her father and chagrin of the other elite living in Alexandria. Cyril, the new patriarch of the Alexandrian Church wants to convert Alexandria to complete Christianity. Standing in his way to domination is Prefect Orestes and the Lady Philosopher Hypatia. Also in the Patriarch's way, those who stand for reason. Selene must learn how to navigate this treacherous road.

When readers meet Selene, she is a gangly girl of fourteen. Her desire for knowledge distinguishes her from her peers, both male and female. Her journey to awareness can be heartbreaking, but with each misstep, Selene learns a new lesson. And her sincerity and good nature earn her the reader's love. I expected to see more of Hypatia, but her absence leaves the focus on Selene. The other secondary characters, such as Rebecca, Orstes and Antonius were wonderful.

The action is never ending, and the plot is full of SUPER twists and turns. Also included in this book are undercurrents of class relations, as well as a battle of Church versus State. These only increase the book's readability.

This book had me tearing up a lot. Here are some of my favorite parts.

"Philosophy is a rigorous study and a way of life which only a few are able to master."

"Stripped of my past, I have the opportunity to make my own future."
84 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2011
This is a book with everything, historical setting, intrigue, mystery, social and political conflict. It is well written and I truly appreciate the dedication the author showed by staying as true as possible to the scant historical record while maintaining the integrity of her story. Selene's story is more than a coming of age tale. The story encompasses the social unrest which ultimately brings down huge empires from the inside; it explores the role religious figures have played in shaping the knowledge base and controlling the populace; it delves into the social restrictions placed on women and the lower classes and the price which must be paid in order to challenge these conceptions, just to name a few. By far, my favorite part of this novel is the ending; we don't get a tidy everything is roses ending. It realistically depicts the depths of human suffering that the characters have endured, with just a hint of optimism that when they leave the den of corruption Alexandria has become, their fortunes may improve.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author through the LibraryThing member giveaway program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Profile Image for Cathy.
7 reviews
October 18, 2011
I enjoyed this book. After a kind of slow start I really did get into the story and wanted to see what was going to happen, not only to Selene but to the other characters too.
I thought that the author did an excellent job of creating the tension in the story between the political and the religious factions existing in Alexandria at the time and bringing them to life with in the persons of Orestes and Cyril. Adding the stories of Selene and her family made this a great read.
Until I read this novel I was unfamiliar with Hypatia. What an fascinating woman!!! Intertwining Hypatia's life and the danger she faced as a counterpoint to Selene's story really made for interesting reading. The ending was great.
I did read that Ms. justice sees this story as the first in a trilogy. I would defiantly want to read more.

Profile Image for Kristine.
52 reviews10 followers
June 20, 2012
This book made me nuts. I have the hardest time dealing with religious conflicts, death in the name of the "god" of said religion. I know it was historical and I really did like the characters, but the religious persecution is just a sore spot with me.
I am facinated by the "Lady Philosopher" and would like to learn more about her. The fictional character was well written, even though she is young in the beginning, you have to remember that children grew up very fast during this time period.
Overall it was a well written book.
Profile Image for N.E. White.
Author 8 books27 followers
March 31, 2012
Great story, extremely well researched, and superb writing. Didn't get the full five stars from me because I didn't get as engaged with Selene, the main character as much as I would have liked. Highly recommended.

I wrote a longer review here, and I can't be bothered to re-write it for here...so...hop on over!
Profile Image for Anne Ipsen.
Author 10 books8 followers
January 26, 2012
This novel about Christian Alexandria is well-told, the apparently well-researched historical details interesting, and the writing excellent. By all measures, I should therefore have loved this book about a time about which I knew nothing and the dedication of the protagonist for becoming a healer, yet I could never feel close to Selene, never truly care what happened. Perhaps the fault is mine.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,988 reviews15 followers
Shelved as 'wish-list'
March 6, 2014
wait for price to come down
Profile Image for Herman.
473 reviews19 followers
June 20, 2018
Rather good: At first I thought this was going to be the book version of Agora the 2010 movie that depicted this part of Hypatia of Alexandria's life, and since I knew the basic parameters of the story I was reluctant to dive into it for the story is depressing one of deep political intrigue, hypocrisy, and a turning point in history where things went bad and got worse. This book surprised me though it's not the story of Hypatia but of her student Selene someone who I knew nothing about also had a great deal of detail creating a very believable atmosphere, for example this from a religious ruling by the new Patriarch "The man crossed thick arms over a barrel chest. The woman’s pretty face marred by a lumpy nose and the look of fear as she flinched away from her husband. “This marriage is ended. The husband may take the house, the leather shop, all its goods, and such money as he has accumulated during the seven years of marriage. The couple must post a notice of their intention to divorce and pay all debtors from the joint property. The husband is free to seek another wife.” The barrel-chested man broke into a broad grin and bowed low to the Patriarch. Cyril nodded his acknowledgement and continued. “The wife may take her dowry portion and no more. She is forbidden to take another husband until such time as her presbyter pronounces her free of demonic influence.” Good Example of a very male chauvinistic ruling with a women marred by a lumpy nose accused of demonic influence I like the author trusting her audience to read between the lines. I found many scholarly Easter eggs like this throughout the book written in a way that interlaced them into the story in expanding and illustrate the motivations or character of the people described. I was caught up in the story notwithstanding the malevolence nature of what happened. It was triggering to me but I'm triggered everyday when I see the news about our current political state, we are kind of in a catagenesis period right now and it bothers me in the same way, if Selene was able to survive it then so can I.
August 10, 2018
A fascinating read

I knew the story on Hypatia, but this novel woven around Selene, author’s creation was really a fascinating read. I enjoyed reading every page of the book.
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