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The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs

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parthianbow
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The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs

Post by parthianbow » Thu September 27th, 2012, 9:11 am

Elisabeth Storrs first became fascinated with the mysterious Etruscan people, ancient neighbours and enemies of the city of Rome, when she saw the remarkable funerary carving that depicts a husband and wife under the same shroud. It is a picture of equality between the sexes that would never have been seen (at least as far as we know) in Rome. Driven by her fascination with this, she set about writing a novel that has as its central character a young Roman woman, Caecilia, but which is primarily about the Etruscans, into whose civilisation Caecilia is married against her will. The story is set in the late 5th century BC, when Rome was little but a fortified city surrounded by enemies - among them the Etruscans.

Sadly, very little is known about the Etruscans. There is almost no written information about them that survives; much of what comes to us is what was written by them by the Romans or Greeks; the rest consists of archaeological artefacts and the vibrant paintings that remain in some tombs. One might think that it would be hard to construct a novel around these few fragments, yet Storrs has done a remarkable job. Her Etruscan world is rich and colourful and full of life, bringing not just the city of Veii to life, but also its inhabitants and their - to Roman eyes - decadent ways.

Caecilia, the central character, is a troubled soul, unloved and almost without friends in her life at home. Although she does not realise it at first, her new life as the wife of Mastarna, an Etruscan noble, offers her the chance of more freedoms than she could ever have imagined. I won't give too much away except to say that this is a novel of sensuality and love, of fear and loathing and discovery. It's about loyalty (both genuine and misguided), betrayal and, I think, redemption. All in all, I found it a wonderful read. Storrs should be proud of herself for this gem of a book.

4.5 stars out of 5.
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

http://www.benkane.net
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Post by annis » Thu September 27th, 2012, 6:02 pm

Aha- I think this is one I did actually recommend to you, Ben :)

I loved this story of a young Roman woman who is used as a pawn by marriage in the ongoing conflict between two cities - aggressively expansionist Rome (the lean and hungry wolves) and the prosperous, sophisticated Etruscan city of Veii. Very absorbing look at a pivotal point in history from the POV of a woman who struggles to reconcile her stern duty to Rome with the seductions of life as the wife of an Etruscan nobleman. Slow, sinuous and almost hypnotic, it's probably not going to appeal to someone wanting a blood-and-guts historical adventure, but it's a fascinating read.

Elisabeth Storrs has said she intends to write a sequel, but haven't seen any sign of it to date. At about the time I first read this Ariadne posted an excellent review on her Reading the Past blog which includes a link to Storrs' post about the inspiration she found in Etruscan art when writing this novel.

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Post by Ariadne » Thu September 27th, 2012, 8:44 pm

In case neither of you has seen the author's recent guest blog spot about going indie, here's the link: What's a Writer to Do? It appears that the sequel, Juno's Daughters, will be published only as an e-book next year. I'm glad she's found success selling The Wedding Shroud in that format, too. It's a terrific read.
Last edited by Ariadne on Thu September 27th, 2012, 8:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by annis » Fri September 28th, 2012, 2:35 am

Thanks for that update, Sarah. Very pleased to hear that a sequel is still on the cards :) I'd been wondering what happened there, as the book received a lot of positive feedback when it first came out. As we've mentioned elsewhere, it's a bit kiss-of-death for a novel when it's only made available in Australasia. Because of the necessarily smaller market, the prices are always comparatively higher and the cost of postage overseas is an additional deterrent to would-be buyers from the US and UK. The e-book option sounds like a good choice.

Aussie author Jesse Blackadder's novel Raven's Heart (which I also enjoyed) met a similar fate, and I was pleased to see that it's just been released in the States, where it will hopefully find a wider reading audience.

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Post by Ariadne » Fri September 28th, 2012, 8:14 am

It's true, the copies I found online were all quite expensive, and I never saw it available at stores that shipped internationally for free. I'll be getting the sequel once it's out.

I have a copy of Raven's Heart for review so was pleased to see you enjoyed it :)

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Post by parthianbow » Fri September 28th, 2012, 11:25 am

@annis: to be fair, I had heard of it when it came out, and had wanted to read it, given my attraction to Etruscans! However, your recommendation added to this.

I have been in email contact with Elisabeth recently, as I needed a list of Roman texts on marriage (who better to ask?) and she told me that she was busy writing the sequel. Given the extreme cliffhanger ending of the first book, I cannot wait!
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

http://www.benkane.net
Twitter: @benkaneauthor

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Post by annis » Fri September 28th, 2012, 7:54 pm

@Ben: I thought this would be one you'd appreciate, given your interest in all things Etruscan :) Just out of curiosity, did you read Wedding Shroud as a hard copy or e-book?

@Ariadne: One problem for Raven's Heart has been the fact that some readers clearly wanted/expected a conventionally romantic story and have had difficulties with the heroine's bi-sexuality. However, I have to say I never saw as an issue. Jesse Blackadder is gay herself, and the sex scenes in her novel are drawn convincingly and with sensitivity.

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Post by Ariadne » Fri September 28th, 2012, 9:31 pm

[quote=""annis""]
@Ariadne: One problem for Raven's Heart has been the fact that some readers clearly wanted/expected a conventionally romantic story and have had difficulties with the heroine's bi-sexuality. However, I have to say I never saw as an issue. Jesse Blackadder is gay herself, and the sex scenes in her novel are drawn convincingly and with sensitivity.[/quote]

I don't see it as an issue either. I haven't read up much on the storyline in advance, other than your review, but seeing that the US edition is from a lesbian small press, I figured LGBT themes would carry over into the story somehow.

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Post by lauragill » Sun November 4th, 2012, 5:58 am

I'm reading the book now and loving it.

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Post by parthianbow » Sun November 4th, 2012, 3:37 pm

@Annis: as an ebook. The sequel will mainly be ebook too, I believe.

@lauragill: Great stuff!
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

http://www.benkane.net
Twitter: @benkaneauthor

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