The Mieza Book Club “Orestes: The Young Lion” (Chapters 33 – 39) Pt 2

  • New to the Mieza Book Club? Read the Introduction here
  • Minutes of the previous meetings can be read here

Orestes: The Young Lion by Laura Gill

Chapters 33 – 39 Pt 2
The Club reaches the end of Laura Gill’s splendid book (again).
For The Record

  • Amyntas of Pella and Amyntas of Aegae were not late to this meeting but got into an argument with one another over John F. Kennedy’s response to the Cuban Missile Crisis, so did not contribute to the discussion.
  • Please note, the transcript contains “spoilers”.

Club Secretary
Seleucus With Chapter 35 we enter the final stretch of the book. Now, the issue of the inevitability of Orestes’ fate comes to the fore. He also starts to form his alliances, and choose his enemies.

Theban Al Mmm. His rejection of and warning to Alastor [in Chapter 36] is chilling.

Seleucus I wonder if it marks the moment when Orestes finally stops being stroppy and moppy like Luke Skywalker and becomes a man.

Meleager If so it is sad that he does so in a very negative way. I really disliked the way he dismissed Tyndareus. It’s as if we are seeing Orestes turn into that which he hates the most. Or rather, he whom he hates the most.

Theban Al I don’t think he will but I can see why you say that.

Peucestas In Chapter 37 Orestes draws up his list of those who might help him. He also compiles his hit list. It is a nasty moment, for friends as well as enemies go onto the list – but I suppose that was how it worked back then: you kill one of my family, I kill all of yours; even if they were friendly to me.

Leonnatus Yes. I suppose God was doing a good work when he gave Moses the ‘eye for an eye’ Law. This is why it is important to look at ancient peoples from where they came rather than from our perspective. If we did the latter – now that our rule is ‘love thy enemy’ – we would think the Mosaic principle is deficient when, in fact, it was an improvement upon what came before.

Harpalus It’s rather a shame, is it not, that God didn’t tell Moses to love his enemies.

Leonnatus I am fairly confident that that would not have worked. The Israelites had not yet reached the level of being able to do so.

Harpalus That is quite a judgement on them!

Leonnatus Is it? Well, consider countries in our own day that have gone from being dictatorships to democracies. Have they done it well? In Russia, Vladimir Putin is no longer president but is a virtual anax over his people. Egypt overthrew Mubarak – a dictator – then overthrew its democratically elected president. In Afghanistan, Karzai came to power with the help of fraud. I doubt it stopped once his term started. Why have all these things happened? I would suggest it is because – by and large – Mankind simply cannot take too much change in one go. It exposes weaknesses in the new system and allows – potentially corrupt – individuals to gain too much power. In the case of Israel, I think God knew this. He knew that if he pushed Israel too far it simply wouldn’t work. One step at a time: vengeance culture to an eye-for-an-eye to love-thy-neighbour. Genius, really. 

Peucestas That is fascinating, Leonnatus – for itself and also because it makes me look at Orestes with a renewed respect for its place in history. By which I mean is, it brings to the fore the fact that I am reading something based on the ideas and beliefs of a now vanished age – perhaps it is just me but I think that is easy to forget in the heat of reading. It is worth keeping in mind, though, as it enriches the reading experience.

Seleucus Yes, very eloquently put, Leonnatus, old boy; speaking of eloquence – Gill’s description of Orestes’ visit to the Pythia was perfectly written. I absolutely felt like I was there.

Harpalus I wasn’t so fond of it. I was rather confused by that scene. Was she saying that the Pythia gave her prophecies after getting high?

Seleucus Yes, that is how I read it.

Harpalus Golly.

Peucestas Seleucus mentioned Tolkien earlier. The Pythia’s prophecy ‘ “Doomed to torment, doomed to madness, doomed to wandering in darkness” evoked the memory of the drumbeats in Moria for me. Doom, doom, doom! Very spooky.

Seleucus Indeed! Right, Orestes’ trip to Delphi is followed up [in Chapter 39] by Elektra’s ritual. I also found that to be a very evocative scene. I assume that the detail comes from Gill’s own imagination as little is known about women’s religion in ancient Greece?

Harpalus No idea, dear boy, but Orestes seeing the blemished liver was a super touch. It was a pity not more was made of it.

Theban Al I suspect that was deliberate. Not knowing what the omen truly was allows the story to retain a certain level of mystery – although, I know, yes, we do know what happens at the end.

Harpalus We have commented a couple of times this evening on how Gill allows the reader to make up his own mind as to what element X means. Not permitting Orestes to see the liver properly is consistent with that approach. Gosh, I would be a terrible writer. I would want to give every last detail. I’d be perpetually worried that I wasn’t giving the reader enough so would end up giving them too much.

Theban Al It is no excuse not to write, though; your draft readers will tell you where they think you are going right or wrong!

Peucestas These are good points and now, with great sadness, chaps, I must tell you that we are now past our finishing time. The Young Lion ends in medias res so we do not need to spend too much time on it. I will, however, ask my usual Final Question: Is it a good ending. Seleucus, on behalf of the club, what say you?

Seleucus In my opinion it is an ending that does its job but no more. Ordinarily, this would be a disappointment but given that the book is part of a trilogy we should, I think, look at it as simply the end of a chapter rather than the true end of a book. In that regard, it works perfectly as it makes me want to turn the page to the next one to find out what happens next.

Peucestas Very good. Well then, on that note, I shall ask you all for your final comments. You know how we do it chaps.  Seleucus, as Club President, you go first. What did you think of Orestes: The Young Lion?

Seleucus It was a good read! Theban?

Theban Al I say it was a jolly good read! Harpalus?

Harpalus With great joy, I say it was a jolly good read for anyone interested in Greek mythology! Meleager?

Meleager ‘Pon my soul, and with great joy, I say it was a jolly good read for anyone interested in Greek mythology, and who is buying on a budget – the book is on sale via iBooks (and Amazon) for a very reasonable price. Leonnatus?

Leonnatus Verily, upon my soul, and with great joy, I say it was a jolly good read for anyone interested in Greek mythology, and who is buying on a budget. The book is on sale via iBooks (and Amazon) for a very reasonable price and is well worth one’s time and money. Peucestas, back to you.

Peucestas Thank you, Leonnatus; thank you, everyone. None of us are book critics, so we always try to focus on the positives on the books we read but I can honestly say that Orestes: The Young Lion has been an excellent read. By-the-bye, and I say this for readers of the transcript as well as you chaps, the edition that we read has since been updated no doubt to its further improvement. I hope I can get a hold of the latest version to see how it compares to this one. For now, though, thank you gentlemen – and readers, who I hold to be with us in spirit.

The club took a vote on this and agreed unanimously that Peucestas was right. Glasses were clinked and then drained


The Israelites sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept; we sat down in Mieza and discussed books. And drank wine. Lots.

The Israelites sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept; we sat down in Mieza and discussed books. And drank wine. Lots.

  • Orestes: The Young Lion is available to buy in various formats. Here it is at Amazon.
  • If you know of a book that the Mieza Book Club should read, let us know in the comments box
  • The Mieza Book Club will be discussing “The Bacchae” by an upcoming Greek playwright called Euripides at its next meeting
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