The reach of a woman’s power

2011-07-06 00:00

MARIÉ Heese’s last novel, The Double Crown, which was a fictional account of the life of the female pharoah Hatshepsut, won the Commonwealth Prize for the best book in Africa last year. Looking for another powerful woman succeeding in a man’s world, Heese has fast-forwarded a couple of thousand years, and settled on the Empress Theodora of Byzantium, the wife of the Emperor Justinian.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Double Crown, and was therefore delighted to have a chance to read The ­Colour of Power. Theodora’s life is relatively well documented, and Heese has stuck pretty closely to what is factually known, but fleshes Theodora out into a believable character, at least for the first two -thirds of the novel.

Born into poverty as the daughter of an actress and a bear keeper in Constantinople, Theodora’s life was tough. Her father died when she was a child, and she was forced to earn a living as an actress and acrobat, and later as a high-class prostitute, before making it to the top.

Heese creates the world of the Roman Empire in the East in the sixth century, in all its patriarchy, wealth, corruption and danger. And the young Theodora is a lively, convincing character — until the point when she meets Justinian. For the author, the problem is that the historical record alternately portrays Theodora as a saint, a shrewd political mover or an insatiable whore. Heese seems a bit uncertain: once Theodora becomes elevated to the purple (the colour of power?) she becomes surprisingly wooden. She may be the power behind Justinian’s throne, enabling him to survive a nasty insurrection, but ultimately, both she and the reader had more fun when she was putting on lewd shows in the Hippodrome, or struggling along among the ordinary people.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/World

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.