Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

Historical fiction is a genre I keep coming to again and again. What I especially enjoy and appreciate are stories based on real people and events in the hands of an author who can bring those long ago worlds to life. What's new to me, though, are stories of really ancient times, in this case Greece. I'd never given that era much thought until I came across Annabel Lyon's first book The Golden Mean, a book I ended up loving for its writing, its characters, and its story. After such a wonderful reading experience I couldn't wait to see what she would write next. Where would she take us, and with whom?

The Sweet Girl is the story of Aristotle's daughter, Pythias, whom we met briefly as an infant and toddler in The Golden Mean. In this next book, she grows from a precocious girl of seven to a dynamic young woman. Her father dotes on her and, contrary to the culture of the time, encourages her academic interests and growth. When Aristotle dies, however, and what's left of her already fractured family is further separated, she seeks to establish herself as best she can in a society unsupportive of women in anything other than a domestic, subservient role. Everywhere she turns, though, even in the company of priestesses and The Goddess, even in love, she becomes disillusioned realizing that it is up to her to establish an attitude of acceptance of what is.

The writing and story are again wonderful; it's hard not to feel for Pythias as she struggles to come to terms with her lot. One wishes she could have been born a few centuries hence to more fully realize her independent spirit.

"You should hear him brag about you," he tells me. "A better mind than many of his students, he says. Always got her nose in a book. Should have been a boy." I look at Daddy, who nods, smiling, flushing a little. Yes, I said that. I flush a little myself, with pleasure. pg12

"A freak." . . . "Oh, I don't mean that unkindly. But how could such a great man produce an ordinary child? The tallest mountains have the tallest shadows. She's not representative of her sex. She's the exception that proves the rule" pg17

I smile to infuriate her. I'm my father's child. I do what I want. pg41

The streets are busy, busier than usual, with a lot of doorway loitering and dart-eyed muttering and finger pointing. Daddy is famous. But then someone calls "Macedonians," and 'fucking Macedonians" again from another part of the street, and then a chorus of voices call other words - Herpyllis claps her hands over my ears. The cart speeds up, the horses rump-smacked by Simon, and I'm thinking of Gaiane, and I'm understanding why she wouldn't see me, or was told not to. Daddy's face is white. He takes Nico's hand in one of his and mine in the other, and sits as tall as he can. pg61

I find it important not to speak. Each word feels precious, suddenly and so many words are so utterly unnecessary. pg107

Who am I to be making decisions? Who am I? An orphan, a pauper. A girl. Thinking thinking thinking smiling smiling smiling. Grace matters now. pg113

Curiosity, that fine edge, is blunted in me since Daddy's death, an irony I'm not curious enough to puzzle through. I sit feeling sad in the bright cold air, the wind moving a few dead, clinging leaves high, high up in the trees. From far away comes the sound of footsteps on gravel, running. Closer and closer. Neither of us moves or looks at the other; I like that. pg131

Glycera leads him to the couch next to mine, and while she begins a general conversation on economics - a preset topic offering me opportunities to shine - he leans over and says quietly, 'You're so angry, you're practically throwing sparks." pg197


Laura BurgandyIce said...

I like historical fiction, too. How interesting to write about Aristotle and his daughter! That's cool. Women in history have not had it easy and I like the stories of those who fought the norm. I bet that was more common than has been admitted or shared. I mean, I know not every culture is into "independence" like ours, but there has to have been independent characters in every culture and every time period. Thx for your review!

Trish said...

I know, right? Both books are so interesting not only for a vivd depiction of ancient Greece but because you 'get' the characters too.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

It's official - I need to read an Annabel Lyon soon. You know I love historical fiction too and I've heard so many things about her from so many different sources, and now from you too.

Trish said...

Yes! Knowing the kind of books you already read, I think you would really like her.

laughingwolf said...

another author for my tbr list, thank you :)

Trish said...

It's a gooder.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I find that historical fiction opens up a new world for me in an entirely different way that other genres. I love it and I always feel so much more connected to history even when the author has imagined the life of the character. I still find that it sticks with me.

Trish said...

That's so true! It's such an enjoyable way to study history.