Odyssey of an Etruscan Noblewoman

An Etruscan noblewoman undergoes numerous trials and tribulations in another work of historical fiction from author Burgundy (Tuscan Intrigue, 2005, etc.).
The action begins in a tomb in Etruria, a region of central Italy. Dressed as a man (women cannot be scribes), Larthia enters the tomb of her ancestor princess-priestess Larthia on orders from prince-priest Zilath, a magistrate for whom she secretly scribes. Zilath desecrates the tomb, but the honorable Larthia is blamed. Kidnapped and separated from her homeland and her family, she is exiled for years, journeying through other regions, including Phoenicia and Egypt. Many are drawn to Larthia; some scarcely hide their jealousy as various VIPs recognize her talent as a scribe. Enduring misery and defeat, she nevertheless expresses gratitude and patience, remaining self-aware and wary, inherently alone, eventually distrusting even the gods who seemingly abandoned her. Repeatedly, she pays for her abilities: “I knew too much, more than my place.” Pacing is brisk in this insightful narrative weighty with historical detail. In her misadventures, Larthia is raped, forced to become a courtesan and nearly murdered before ascending to service as a priestess. It’s an impressive arc that works on multiple levels, as Larth/Larthia/Etrusca (her various names) traverses land and sea, seemingly at everyone’s mercy, increasingly doubting her faith. She is used and misused, and her lengthy separation from her homeland drains her of vitality. Yet she is a feminist in the making—a woman of integrity, intelligence and presence who wishes to keep the secrets of her native land even as she is coerced into divulging them. It’s a clever conceit that allows for comparison of Etruscan ways with those of other cultures, including Rome and Egypt. A map of her cosmos is included.
A historically based survival tale of lost heritage, homelessness and empowerment that ably incorporates regional traditions, customs and commerce.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2005

ISBN: 978-1413416237

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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