Dido by Adele Geras

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Dido by Adele Geras

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A lovely retelling of the story of Dido and Aeneas from Virgil's Aeneid. Geras has an enviable skill in making her elegant prose and traditional storytelling appeal to contemporary readers. Bookbag loved this book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2009
Publisher: David Fickling
ISBN: 0385615175

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There are only five plots. The old stories are the best.

Well, not necessarily so, but there are so many retellings of myth and legend for good reasons. Old stories do encapsulate the biggest stories of all our lives, and if they have survived for thousands of years, it's pretty clear that they do it successfully. I love old stories made new, and so I'm deeply attracted by the way Adele Geras approaches hers by combining characters with a contemporary feel with language altogether more traditional and epic. After Troy and Ithaka comes Dido, the story of the tragic Carthaginian queen who lost Aeneas to the founding of Rome.

In some sources, Dido is known as Elissa, but in this book, Elissa is Dido's maidservant. Elissa watches her queen's dangerous and passionate love affair with the heroic Trojan with wonder, but nurses a secret love for Aeneas. And when his destiny beckons and his relationship with Dido begins to fracture, he comes to notice this quiet serving girl more and more. In other arcs, Anna the queen's sister, loves the poet Iopas, but Iopas loves Elissa. Tanith loves Maron, Aeneas's closest friend. Lonely kitchen boy Cubby also finds a first meaningful relationship with Maron, but Maron will never be anywhere other than at his leader's side.

The gods, meanwhile, appear at random, meddle with human lives, and argue with one another about the consequences.

And so you can see, it's a perfect maelstrom of love, jealousy, fate and caprice, just as all the legends told, and just as all the great writers have told, from Homer to Virgil to Shakespeare to Hardy and now to Geras. The language Geras uses is elegant, epic and often very formal. It serves to highlight the inevitability of the unfolding tragedy and it elevates the events to something very potent and powerful. But the characters themselves feel very contemporary and modern young readers will feel right at home in their emotional landscapes and interactions. It's a great mix - telling a special, almost otherworldly, story through the eyes of people with whom readers can easily identify.

Dido is right up there with some of the other masterful retellings of myth and legend. I read and re-read books by people like Roger Lancelyn-Green and David Kossoff when I was a child, and I can see that this Trojan series by Geras will be equally well-thumbed.

My thanks to the good people at David Fickling for sending the book.

If they enjoyed Dido, they might also like Lugalbanda by Kathy Henderson and Jane Ray, a beautiful retelling of the world's oldest story. The Game by Diana Wynne-Jones brings the Greek gods into a contemporary fantasy. Older teens will enjoy Troy: Fall Of Kings by David and Stella Gemmell. Adult readers should look at Helen Dunmore's spectacular fictionalisation of the Roman poet Catullus in Counting the Stars.

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Buy Dido by Adele Geras at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dido by Adele Geras at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Dido by Adele Geras at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dido by Adele Geras at Amazon.com.

Booklists.jpg Dido by Adele Geras is in the Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.


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