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Reading ‘Fire from Heaven’ in Ibeju-Lekki

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The book: Fire from Heaven, Mary Renault

The place: Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos State

I love my job even at the worst of times, but every so often it manages to surpass itself. The project I am currently working on is being rolled out in a few different areas across Nigeria, including where I currently am, and it turns out that the closest hotel to the training venue happens to be a ramshackle holiday resort right on the beach. I’m not sure how the owners manage to make ends meet; we are the only people staying here, and the beach itself is otherwise deserted. In any case, they seem delighted that we are here, and keep plying us with puff-puff and yam balls. At night it is almost entirely silent, except for the pounding of the surf and the peeping of bats in the palm trees, and, in the early hours of this morning, an unseasonal rainstorm, which did absolutely nothing to diminish the sweltering heat, but was very atmospheric nonetheless.

My reading is fairly incongruous: my first foray into Mary Renault’s historical fiction, having read (and loved) The Charioteer last year. I am thoroughly enjoying Fire from Heaven, although it exposes quite how ignorant I am about Ancient Greece, and, indeed, the extent to which assumed knowledge has changed over the last 30 or 40 years – Renault clearly assumed that all her readers would have at least a nodding acquaintance with Alexander the Great and Aristotle and Demosthenes, whereas most of the time I know nothing about any of these people beyond their names. It is a little humbling; I should read Plutarch.

(I am also amused and a little touched by Renault’s evident stonking great crush on Alexander. As someone with a tendency to get over-attached to functionally fictional characters, I can certainly relate, and only roll my eyes a little at the nth description of Alexander’s preternatural beauty and charisma.)

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Written by Jess

February 4, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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