Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Remembering Hypatia

Remembering Hypatia:
A Novel of Ancient Egypt

by Brian Trent

(iUniverse / 0-595-34252-3 / 978-0-595-34252-5 / February 2005 / 292 pages / $16.95 / $15.25 Amazon)

Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM

Imagine a great city that is a peaceful melting pot of mankind, brimming over with a variety of race and religions. In a world where bearded barbarians wreak senseless violence on faraway cities, this place is a bastion of civilization and tolerance, and rational people find refuge here from senseless violence. But still, the danger of religious fanaticism is growing, and a woman scientist and teacher will soon find herself in mortal danger, partly because her free-thinking ways threaten the power of certain theological leaders, but mostly because she is a woman who dares to stand out among men. Can you name the city? Possibly not, because this city was in its glory two millennia ago, and the events described here are straight out of ancient history.

Remembering Hypatia is a story of Egypt in 414 A.D. The great city is Alexandria; the terrorists are Visigoths; and the fundamentalist fanatics are early Christians, plying their growing strength against the science and philosophies of intellectuals. First the Alexandrians lose their freedom to worship as they wish; now their freedom to think as they wish is threatened. Hypatia, a woman of remarkable brilliance and charisma, pays the ultimate price for her intelligence, her unorthodox beliefs, and her gender. Although this story happened nearly two thousand years ago, modern Americans can shiver with apprehension. The issues may be different – pagan temples and astronomy instead of same-sex marriage and stem cell research, but the parallels are undeniable. And when religion overcame reason in Alexandria in the 5th Century, an age of darkness descended which lasted a thousand years.

“If nothing else, Hypatia thought, history is like a planet continually traversing the same path around a sun. Just when you think something’s over, it comes looming back from the gloom on yet another pass.”

Readers should be prepared for scenes of graphic and tragic violence taken, sadly enough, from truth. Although you know from the beginning of the book how it will end, this does not make it any less shocking or poignant. Brian Trent brings the 5th Century world of Alexandria to life with vivid imagery and resurrects a great woman and a terrible injustice in this worthy and highly researched historical fiction novel.

See Also: The High Spirits Review
Dianne's B&N Review
Brian Trent's website

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