Synopses & Reviews
Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore, Stella Duffy's chronicle of this amazing woman's early years, delighted readers with its exquisite blend of historical detail and vivid storytelling. Now, The Purple Shroud chronicles Theodora at the height of her power, bringing the ancient world alive in another unforgettable, epic saga.
Theodora and Justinian have been crowned Emperor and Empress, but ruling an empire is no easy task. The two factions of Christianity are still battling for dogmatic supremacy, the Empire's borders are not secure, and Theodora worries about the ambitions of Justinian's two best generals. But the most pressing concern is close to home: Constantinople's two factions, the Blues and the Greens, are beginning to unite in their unhappiness with rising taxes. When that unhappiness spills over into all-out violence, thousands are killed (including someone very close to Theodora) and many of the City's landmarks are destroyed, including Theodora's beloved Hagia Sophia. In the aftermath of the riots, Theodora guides Justinian in gaining back the love and trust of the people, her unerring instinct for what the people want proving invaluable. Justinian promises to rebuild the Hagia Sophia to be even more spectacular than before. Theodora comes to realize that being the Augusta is simply another role she must play, though the stakes are much higher and there is no offstage. It's a role she was born to play.
andquot;Theodora is a best-of-all-worlds book -- entertaining, gripping, thoughtful and dangerously enlightening. Stella Duffy, a versatile and gifted novelist, is uniquely suited to bringing Theodora to life. She clearly has great affection for her subject, but does not allow that to undercut her keen eye and pitch-perfect ear. An achievement that many writers will envy and few will equal.andquot;
andquot;Duffy's seductive retelling of the story of the legendary empress Theodora will delight historical fiction fans.andquot;
andquot;Duffy's retelling of the true story of a woman (500-548) who rose from lowly beginnings to become Empress of the Byzantine Empire is lively and dramatic.andquot;
andquot;There's... intelligence and empathy under the energetic potboiler surface.andquot;
andquot;Duffy's passion for her heroine, the charismatic Theodora, is evident on every page. The result is a novel that remains true to its historical sources, whilst managing to reinvent its subject matter with great freshness and verve. A vivid and affectionate portrait of one of the most fascinating personalities of the ancient world.andquot;
"...for sheer entertainment, drama, and page-turning storytelling, this tumultuous debut novel is well worth reading.
Praise for Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore
"Theodora is a best-of-all-worlds book—entertaining, gripping, thoughtful and dangerously enlightening. Stella Duffy, a versatile and gifted novelist, is uniquely suited to bringing Theodora to life. She clearly has great affection for her subject, but does not allow that to undercut her keen eye and pitch-perfect ear. An achievement that many writers will envy and few will equal." —Laura Lippman
"In Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore, Stella Duffy's brilliantly organized imagination has re-imagined one of the most resourceful, smart, and emotionally complex woman in history, creating a woman remarkably relevant to the 21st century: a rags-to-riches story of survival and achievement—a feminist reality tale we can all relate to. Read this book. It is a gift from Stella Duffy we should not refuse." —LAMBDA Literary Review "Lively and dramatic. Duffy explores themes of sexuality, theater, religious conversion, female oppression, and the struggle for power and recognition in a sixth-century historical setting with a surprisingly contemporary attitude." —Library Journal
"Duffy's seductive retelling of the story of the legendary empress Theodora will delight historical fiction fans. . . . a portrait of a woman who rose from misfortune and poverty to build an empire alongside a devoted husband." —Publishers Weekly
"Duffy's passion for her heroine, the charismatic Theodora, is evident on every page. The result is a novel that remains true to its historical sources, whilst managing to reinvent its subject matter with great freshness and verve. A vivid and affectionate portrait of one of the most fascinating personalities of the ancient world." —Sarah Waters, author of The Little Stranger
Fantastic praise from the UK:
"Stella Duffy’s first historical novel will set a benchmark for others to aim for. Her story of Theodora's rise from dancing girl and whore to Empress of Constantinople is a delight in all ways . . . magical, moving and inspiring in one, this is easily Duffy's best novel to date—and that’s setting the bar pretty high." —Manda Scott, author of the Boudica series
"Not only is Theodora herself engagingly brought to life as a sassy, wise-cracking tart with a heart, but Constantinople, the great imperial capital whose crowds she woos and seduces, is also a pulsingly vivid presence." —The Guardian
"It boasts a heroine to rival Becky Sharp or Moll Flanders." —The London Evening Standard
"A bravura performance: a witty, moving, sexy book that bursts with as much colour and excitement as the city of Constantinople itself . . . This is a book that engages with big ideas about religion spirituality and the role of women and yet it is also a joyous and energetic read. The pace is brisk, the dialogue is earthy and contemporary and Duffy is wonderful on the theatre and its backstage rivalries. Throughout it all Constantinople is the star, and its rich smells, bustling streets and handsome buildings are beautifully evoked." —Kate Williams, Financial Times (UK)
"Theodora, the sixth-century actress/whore who became Justinian's empress (not to mention pioneer feminist and Orthodox saint) is exquisitely summoned by Duffy . . . This is a story rich in colour, texture and taste, told in a fleet-footed narrative." —The Telegraph (UK)
"Duffy proves herself equal to the grand scope of her tale." —Metro London
"Duffy succeeds brilliantly in breathing life into her proto-feminist heroine and rescuing her from relative obscurity." —Mail on Sunday
"Duffy has carefully followed the history of this woman, but has achieved something much more: the creation for her heroine of a real inner life, which is the most affecting achievement of a historical novel." —Jane Jakeman, The Independent (UK)
"A compelling, and at times racy, historical novel with its portrait of a remarkable woman." —Justin Warshaw, The Times Literary Supplement
“Even better than the first book, Duffy’s portrayal of a former actress’s extraordinary rise to power is riveting.” – Library Journal
andldquo;Even better than the first book, Duffyandrsquo;s portrayal of a former actressandrsquo;s extraordinary rise to power is riveting.andrdquo; andndash; Library Journal
“Rich in dialogue, filled with fascinating details of sixth-century life in Asia Minor, Duffy’s novel offers an intimate portrayal of the calculating empress, who was an early feminist and a brilliant ruler…” – Booklist
“Wonderful...a sensual experience that leaves the reader marveling at the authors craftsmanship, idiosyncrasy, and sheer effort.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Compelling…Readers of all sexes and orientations should identify with this gusty hero as she learns who she is and how to love.”
“Delectable...written in roguishly lilting prose filled with the sights, sounds, and stenches of London street life.”
—The Seattle Times
“Erotic and absorbing…Written with starling power.”—
The New York Times Book Review
“Glorious…an exceptional debut.”
—The Boston Globe
andquot;A bravura performance: a witty, moving, sexy book that bursts with as much color and excitement as the city of Constantinople itself.andquot; -Financial Times
Roman historian Procopius publicly praised Theodora of Constantinople for her piety-while secretly detailing her salacious stage act and maligning her as ruthless and power hungry. So who was this woman who rose from humble beginnings as a dancer to become the empress of Rome and a saint in the Orthodox Church? Award-winning novelist Stella Duffy vividly recreates the life and times of a woman who left her mark on one of the ancient world's most powerful empires. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore is a sexy, captivating novel that resurrects an extraordinary, little-known figure from the dusty pages of history.
An exciting debut: a vivid, richly imagined saga of ancient Rome from a masterful new voice in historical fiction
Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress's rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome's newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.
As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome's aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian's games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor's mistress.
"Lavishly crammed with the songs, smells, and costumes of late Victorian England" (The Daily Telegraph), this delicious, steamy debut novel chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on "Grease Paint Avenue, " Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover, and, soon after, dons trousers herself and joins the act.
In time, Kitty breaks her heart, and Nan assumes the guise of butch roue to commence her own thrilling and varied sexual educationa sort of Moll Flanders in dragfinally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places.
Drawing comparison to the work of Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters's novel is a feast for the sensesan erotic, lushly detailed historical novel that bursts with life and dazzlingly casts the turn of the century in a different light.
Erotic and absorbing
Written with starling power.”The New York Times Book Review
Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty's dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.
About the Author
Stella Duffy was born in London, grew up in New Zealand, and now lives in London. She is the author of seven literary novels, including The Room of Lost Things and State of Happiness, both of which were Longlisted for the Orange Prize. The Room of Lost Things won the Stonewall Writer of the Year 2008, and she won the Stonewall Writer of the Year 2010 for Theodora. She is also the author of the Saz Martin detective series. She has written over 45 short stories, including several for BBC Radio 4, and won the 2002 CWA Short Story Dagger for Martha Grace. Her ten plays include an adaptation of Medea for Steam Industry, and Prime Resident and Immaculate Conceit for the National Youth Theatre (UK). In addition to her writing work she is an actor and theatre director.