Writing a fiction story about an historical character can prove to be a challenge. The writer is faced with keeping historical aspects true while filling in the empty spaces in their lives with fictional aspects that support the historical character we know. This can be extremely fun for the writer. Stella Duffy has some fun with the infamous Empress Theodora in her book, Theodora: Actress....
What do we know about the real Theodora? Not as much as you might think. We only have a couple of sources that write about her after her death. There was speculation of her family, her sordid past, and her rise to power. Since this is all open to speculation, it becomes a creative writerís dream world. It becomes a world that Ms. Duffy enjoys playing in.
In her book, Ms. Duffy explores how Theodoraís life could have been based on how it was for many who entered the theatre. They could have found fame and fortune, but they also found themselves selling their bodies for it. They essentially become prostitutes. In this particular book, Theodora enters the world of acting at a young age. In fact, she is trained for it long before she becomes a woman. As a small child, she is tutored under a well-known teacher who she hates yet respects as he punishes her physically through grueling workouts. She learns to put aside the feel of pain and ignore the needs and demands of her own body.
As she enters the stage life with her two sisters, she finds that she has to create her own niche if she is to be anybody. She becomes daring in her shows and even brings in laughter. She learns to take a hostile crowd and play them where they become putty in her hands while believing they are in control of demanding more from her.
She grows to be the most famous of actresses until she falls in love. She decides to follow the new governor to Africa and become his consort. She can never be his wife, but that is enough until he finds another and she finds herself out on the streets. From there, Theodora finds her path following a strange religious one that leads her back through her prostitution journey and into the palace as the wife of the Emperor.
I have to admit that I was amazed at how well done and creative this was done. I will have to warn readers that the language in this book is very crude and can be vulgar. It probably is reflective of how the speech of the time and the setting really was. That should give you an idea of what youíll find on these pages. The prostitution and intimate scenes are really not that descriptive. This is not a rated XXX book in that manner. But it is not meant for young adults and many older adults could be turned off by this.
From an historical perspective, it is fiction and follows what we think we know of Theodora very well while adding in more drama and adventure than we know for sure. That is the freedom a creative writer has in this. I was impressed on how well the author did this.
Keeping in mind the language, if you really like sordid stories from Ancient Roman times, this could be a book you really enjoy. If you donít like crude language, then pass up on this one.
Note: I was provided this book by the publisher per my request.