Monday, July 25, 2011

Eromenos by Melanie J. McDonald

Title: Eromenos
Author: Melanie J. McDonald

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Ancient Rome / LGBT)
Publisher/Publication Date: Seriously Good Books (3/11/2011)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes, gobbled up in a few hours.
One-sentence summary: The 'memoirs' of Antinous, lover to the Roman emperor Hadrian.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Yes -- it's very dark but quite beautiful and I think it alludes to a scene in the novel quite poetically.

I'm reminded of...: Penelope Fitzgerald, Mary Renault

First line: Such a quiet night, after Alexandria.

Did... I love McDonald's story about seeing Hadrian and Antinous' statues and how it gave her the idea for this book?: YES.  It made me a little teary and got me properly primed for how wonderful this novel would be.

Did... I wiki Antinous to see some of the sculptures Hadrian commissioned?: YES, and Antinous is quite a looker.

Did... I tear up at the end?: YES!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy -- support a small press! 

Why did I get this book?: There's a scene in Tipping the Velvet in which the characters act out a tableau involving Antinous, which put him on my radar.  I knew only the vaguest details about him so was very excited to see him fleshed out in fiction.

Review: This slender, quiet novel packs quite a punch and is so easy to slip in to, I challenge anyone not to finish it in one sitting! Set in the second century A.D., the story is told by Antinous, a handsome boy from a rural province who ends up the lover of the emperor Hadrian.

Despite the possibility for some serious torridness, McDonald's writing as Antinous had a kind of restraint that felt aloof at first. But as the story progressed, the facets of love, possession, power, and privilege emerged and created a complicated portrait. Was this love? Abuse? Both?

Very little is known about Antinous' life, but I greatly enjoyed McDonald's envisioning of what it would have been like: the competitive schooling and classmates jockeying for power, the tension between Greek and Roman, the jealousies that emerge when one is privileged above all others, and the pain that comes from an unequal love. Additionally, Antinous lived in a fascinating era historically and McDonald included those tidbits -- which made me want to head to a library immediately and read more!

Even if you're not typically a reader of 'gay' fiction, I strongly recommend this novel. It's far from salacious or shocking for the sake of shocking; instead, McDonald envisioned what this historically notorious relationship could have been like, and the result is moving and enjoyable.

*** *** ***

Check out the other blogs on the tour for more reviews and guest posts from the author!

GIVEAWAY! I am so excited to offer a giveaway of Eremenos, thanks to the publisher. To enter, leave a comment with your email address. Open internationally, closes 8/12. On August 1, I'll be posting my interview with Melanie McDonald with another chance to enter this giveaway.


  1. Hadrian is one of my favorite Roman Emperor's - I can't wait to read this!
    Consider me in for this giveaway!

  2. This is a very interesting topic for the author to have explored. I'm intrigued! I'd love to read this!


  3. @Jessie: I can't wait to see what you think of McDonald's portrayal of Hadrian!

    @Margaret: It was really done so well -- I greatly enjoyed it!

  4. When a book makes someone feel emotions like that, I know it's well written. You've made this sound really good!

  5. I agree, quite the looked :D

    I actually let Lis review this one for me and she really liked it. Kind of feel like I should have kept it for myself ;) But I totally owed her a really good books since she gets left with the strangest ones, lol

  6. I just started hearing a little about this book, and am intrigued. It sounds as if this is a really intriguing book and since I haven't read any books in this vein, I am going to have to try to check it out. Thanks for the great review!

  7. Everything I know about Hadrian is that he build the wall ;) But it sounds so fascinating!

    Please enter me for the giveaway :)


  8. Haven't heard of this book before but it sounds like one I'd really enjoy.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.


  9. I read Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian some time ago. I'd love to read Antinous' perspective.

  10. Thanks for the review and giveaway! I've kind of held back from reading this because it's LGBT and, not having read much in this area of literature, I'm not quite sure of content. Knowing that it's not salacious is a major plus, and I'll probably pick it up now because I find the premise quite interesting.

    susanna DOT pyatt AT student DOT rcsnc DOT org

  11. This sounds like a very interesting read, and I would love to win a copy:)
    Thanks for a great review - you have made me want to read it even more!

    jwitt33 at live dot com

  12. Thank you for offering this book as it would take me completely into a sphere I know very little about (if I should be so lucky as to win!!)

    Your review makes me want to read this book very much.


  13. I tried to win this book on goodreads too! No luck. Would love to read this. Thanks!

  14. I love historical fiction set in Rome, especially after too many years of teaching Latin. I'd love to read and review this.

  15. This sounds interesting. Hadrian has been on my radar for awhile and I would love to know some more about him. Thanks for this review. While it might not be what I would usually pick up, I just might thanks to your review.

  16. It sounds interesting and I would love to read it.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  17. thanks for a chance! :)

    crazy.diamond18 at gmail dot com

  18. This sounds interesting, and I'd love to give it a shot. (I'm a fan of poetry from this era.) Please count me in. Thank you!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  19. I would appreciate a chance to read this book. I haven't read much about this era.

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

  20. Great review! It sounds like a good book. Would love to get a copy of the book. Thanks!!

  21. Sounds great. I'd love to read this.


  22. I'd love to win!
    Awesome review, you've got me hooked! I'd love to read it!

    My e-mail:

    Thanks! keep up the great work! :D

  23. Count me in! dragonflame720 at yahoo dot com

  24. Thanks for great contest!

  25. Thanks for the giveaway. I've seen some great reviews of this one that have put it on my radar, so I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it too.

    Jessica M.
    jmartinez0415 [at] gmail [dot] com

  26. While this isn't typically one of my favorite time periods for historical fiction I have heard such wonderful reviews of the book that I am excited to give it a try. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  27. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!