Posts Tagged With: The Mieza Book Club

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
Categories: The Mieza Book Club | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Mieza Book Club “Orestes: The Young Lion” (Chapters 33 – 39) Pt 1

  • 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
The Club reaches the end of Laura Gill’s splendid book.
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 whether crisps were better than peanuts so did not contribute to the discussion (PS Crisps are better – Seleucus)
  • Please note, the transcript contains “spoilers”.

Club Secretary
Peucestas So! After six months we have finally reached the end of Orestes’ journey… at least, as far as The Young Lion is concerned. Gentlemen, your thoughts on Chapter 33, please.

Seleucus I shall start. A few meetings ago, Meleager, you said that you thought Timon wouldn’t make it to the end of the book. Sadly, in number 33, you were proved right.

Meleager I thought his death was very handled very sensitively; I liked the fact that it wasn’t a long, drawn out affair, and that when he died, Orestes wasn’t with him. We will all die differently one day but when we do it may indeed happen very quickly and without those we love around us. That’s just a fact of life, and iIt was nice seeing it acknowledged here.

Theban Al I think this scene was the first time I got really angry with Elektra. Her dismissive attitude to Timon was needlessly callous.

Meleager It was but I can understand why. Who was Timon to her? A scribe. So what.

Theban Al But she must have known what Timon meant to Orestes.

Meleager As I see it, Gill’s Elektra is a fundamentally disordered person. She is completely locked into her grief at her father’s death, and it informs everything that she says, thinks and does. Yes, she probably did know what Timon meant to Orestes but that knowledge was not strong enough to break the selfishness that has risen up in her as a result of her anger over Agamemnon’s death.

Leonnatus Would you say she is not then responsible for her actions in this – or indeed any – scene in this book?

Meleager No, I wouldn’t. Her free will remains although it has certainly been reduced. Unfortunately, Elektra is just a tragedy waiting to happen; which, of course, does when she murders her mother and stepfather.

Peucestas Well, in mythology, anyway; Gill might present the showdown differently [Meleager nods].

Seleucus To go back to Timon; Meleager, when you predicted that he would die, I seem to recall that you said you thought it would happen when Orestes either didn’t need him anymore or at a critical moment in the young lion’s life.

Meleager Yes. Well, I certainly got that wrong! Although, I suppose Orestes had started to outgrow him. Having said that, I don’t at all feel that he yet had reached the point where Timon was finally surplus to his requirements – so’s to speak.

Seleucus I agree. And for me, this fact is what makes the manner of Timon’s passing actually quite nice – if death can ever be called such. Timon died neither during a crisis, or after – or as a result of – being rejected. He simply served his young master faithfully until the end, which came naturally. I doubt that will happen many more times during this trilogy. Laura Gill has treated him very kindly.

Harpalus proposed that a vote be taken on this and it was unanimously agreed (9-0 the bar tender picking up the empty beer glasses also voted though he knew not what for). After pipes had been relit and Amyntas of Pella disparaged for smoking a cigarette – and a roll-up at that – the meeting continued

Leonnatus All this talk of Timon makes me think of Pylades who, now that I think about it, is really his – Timon’s – successor. It would be be interesting to read the next book to see how their friendship develops. Does he become Orestes’ friend? Or does he always remain the teacher?

Peucestas Given how this book ends, I doubt there will be much time for teaching in the next one!

Seleucus True!! Moving on a little – I was intrigued by the method used to stop the brigand from bleeding to death after his hand was chopped off. I would never have guessed that a brand could be used to cauterise the wound.

Peucestas Sometimes I do wonder how things like that were discovered. Ouch! Now, at the start of Chapter 34 we come to the scene that you wanted to talk about at the last meeting, Seleucus… the statue of the goddess in the cave.

Seleucus Ah, yes! One of my favourite scenes, given even greater depth when Hermione refers to it in her letter, later. I suppose this scene is Laura Gill’s Tolkien moment. As we walk through Middle-earth with the Nine Walkers, we catch glimpses in the ruins and ancient scripts of the civilisations that once lived there. Here, they are represented by this statue and the cave art. I liked that very much.

Theban Al It was certainly a fascinating moment. And a very surprising one. I knew cave art had been discovered in northern Africa – including images of red ochre hands – but I never realised there was any in Greece. And seemingly using the same materials. I wonder if the cave is based on a real one that Gill has heard of.

Seleucus I should very much like to know. Off to the library!

Theban Al Dear boy, you could just ‘Google’ it.

Leonnatus Old chap, you know the Club rule on turning nouns into verbs!

Theban Al Oh dear, yes; apologies one and all; lashings of apologies! Let me put it another way, then, Seleucus; why don’t you simply avail yourself of whichever search function has been enabled on your mobile telephone’s internet application?

Seleucus Because, Theban, it is a ghastly device that I keep upon my person only for the sake of my mother and father who insist on my being contactable in case of emergency. Not that one ever occurs. And if it did, what would I be able to do? I am neither a medic nor in holy orders.

Peucestas Good Lord, Seleucus, have you been watching Brideshead again?!

Laughter at this comment. Drinks drunk and pipes puffed

Seleucus Regarding the statue and cave art; I referred to old civilisations being responsible for it; however, I have just remembered how Gill describes some of the pictures as being – let’s see here, oh yes, ‘strange men, almost human, with sloping heads and large brows’. This surely marks the creators of them as being neanderthals. And they were not civilised.

Leonnatus As for neanderthals, let’s not judge them too harshly. By our standards, no, they were probably not very civilised at all – although we do have to ask first what it means to be ‘civilised’. That aside, it doesn’t do to judge an ancient people by looking back in time. The only authentic way to do it is to look at what they were like before hand. If we can’t do that then we should be mature enough to recognise and respect our ignorance and not go making assumptions that will always be – because they can only be – very flimsy.

Seleucus The enquiring mind doesn’t like that but, yes, now that you say it, I think you are right.

Leonnatus By way of an addendum to that, I would add that there is no compulsion on us to regard the goddess statue as even being of the same period as the cave art. Orestes regards it as being centuries old – before Prometheus gave fire to Men – but what does he know? I think Gill leaves the issue of the art’s and statue’s origin quite open. Indeed, given the statue’s apparently good condition it may have been placed on its shelf quite recently! And it may not even be a goddess.

Harpalus If I might interrupt I should like to record how uncomfortable this scene made me. I have been potholing and it is a deeply scary activity even when you are following an experienced guide! I thoroughly appreciated Orestes’ decision to hang back when Pylades explored their cave.

Meleager Yes, let’s use that as our cue to move on again. I want to talk about Aegisthus’ letter in which he insinuates that he has had sex with Hermione. Now, I know Orestes is young, but really, he ought to know by now that Aegisthus is simply trying to entrap him – just as Pylades says. Instead of listening to Pylades, though, he goes and writes that abominable letter to Hermione. That was a mortifying scene, it really was. If I was her father and saw that letter I would banish him from my court immediately. If Aegisthus’ insinuation is false then the matter is not worth pursuing; if she had sex willingly with him, what good would the letter do? She is lost to him, already. If Aegisthus raped her, a letter from her beloved in which he refers to the matter would only increase her sense of shame. Badly done, Orestes, badly done.

Leonnatus I expect you are right, Meleager, but I don’t think it is inconceivable that had Hermione been raped she would not have appreciated Orestes’ letter. She does love him, after all… Doesn’t she?

Scratching of heads and furrowing of brows follows as the club members try to remember Hermione’s appearances earlier in the book. Rather embarrassingly, no one can.

Leonnatus At any rate, her reply is perfectly pitched. It also leaves the question of the circumstances of the sexual encounter – if indeed there was one – open. I liked that as once again Gill gives us the space to form our own picture of Aegisthus.

Peucestas And what is your picture, Leonnatus?

Leonnatus I think he is bluffing. he is simply trying to wind Orestes up. Just as Pylades says.

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

Mieza. Where wine and thoughts flowed in equal measure for the chaps of the M Book Club

  • 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
Categories: The Mieza Book Club | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Mieza Book Club “Orestes: The Young Lion” (Chapters 26 – 32)

  • 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 26 – 32
Orestes has been taken in by Strophius, king of Krisa, and husband to Orestes’ aunt Anaxibia.
For The Record

  • Amyntas of Pella and Amyntas of Aegae arrived on time for the meeting but due to trouble parking they missed the start of the meeting and therefore lost the right to speak
  • Please note, the transcript contains “spoilers”

Peucestas, Club Secretary
Peucestas Chapter 26 begins with a letter from Aegisthus to Orestes. Orestes notes how small Aegisthus’ writing is. I have been wondering – is this significant in terms of the story or ‘just’ an example of verisimilitude?

Seleucus I think the latter; at least, as far as this book is concerned. I don’t recall any other mention of Aegisthus’ writing ability anywhere else. Of course, I do not know much about his character in mythology so maybe it references something there.

Theban Al I don’t know the answer but it makes me think of Aegisthus hunched over his papyrus writing in deliberately small script because he knows that it will annoy Orestes. I see it as an example of Gill building up his malevolent character. It’s very petty to write in a way that’ll make it hard for someone to read it but evil is very petty.

Seleucus Is it? Are you saying that that the great evil-doers of history are petty people?

Theban Al Well, yes, actually. And why? Because although their evil deeds may be manifested in great and dramatic ways they are always – always – constructions that are built upon the premise that ‘I desire my will to be done’. And what is more petty than selfishness.

Peucestas How do you apply it to Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, Al?

Theban Al Simple. So, Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra are the baddies – why? Because they murdered Agamemnon – why? To become king and queen – why? For power – why? Because they desired their will to be done in Mycenae. Conclusion: They did it for selfishness. There is a reason why the noblest act a man can do is lay down his life for another; it’s because the most ignoble and pathetic one is to put himself first.

Peucestas Well, that’s a very interesting argument; and all arising out of small handwriting! But we better move on.

Seleucus I would like to skip forward to Chapter 28. There, Orestes rides with Pylades to his new farm. I have to admit, this whole second half of the book – I have now finished it – is not at all what I would have expected it to be. The first half moves forward with a great – and dangerous – momentum. When Orestes arrives at Krisa, however, that momentum comes to a shuddering halt. Farming, mountaineering, Timon’s death… good scenes but should they be the only ones? I could have done less of the the farm business and more getting revenge on M and S.F.

Harpalus I understand what you are saying, but I don’t think your view holds up if we go a little deeper into the narrative. Yes, they are on a farm – but look at what they are doing while there. For example, fitness training, sword fighting and charioteering. There is legitimate story – as well as character – development here.

Meleager On that point, I particularly liked the way Orestes gave credit to Aegisthus for teaching him how to farm. Although, I was a little disappointed that he simply recognised what Aegisthus had done without very much emotion. I would have expected him to be either more grudging or a bit more conflicted.

Harpalus That’s a good point. It was another character who jumped out of the narrative for me – Aktaia. Now, maybe my memory is not up to much, but up until Orestes calls her a ‘vain, foolish creature’ I thought that he got on with her. Now, all of a sudden, he is very much looking down his nose at her.

Meleager Mm. The writing is, perhaps, on the wall for that scene. If you go back to Chapter 27, Orestes slips into a kind of depression during the winter – an example of seasonal affective disorder? – and describes how Aktaia offers him ‘no pleasure’. Night after night he sends her away ‘untouched’. Perhaps it is this depression that is the source of his arrogant attitude to her.

Leonnatus That is a good way of looking at it, Mellers, although I felt the same as Harpers. I have to admit, though, my thoughts of Aktaia in Chapter 28 were rapidly superseded by what happened next – Elektra’s behaviour in reading Orestes’ letter. Even by her standards, that was very rum.

Meleager Elektra is an amazing character. Woman, sister, mother, madman… Gill does well to hold her together.

Peucestas What, for you, is the proof of that?

Meleager Undoubtedly the fact that from one page to the next I am reading about a person whose personality I recognise, whose actions are consistent, whose voice is hers and not an interloper’s.

Seleucus I really liked it when Orestes said that ‘the lioness had sheathed her claws’. Orestes is the young lion of this book but it has to be said Elektra deserves that title more. Moving on – thank you for the sign, Peucestas – and further to what I said a moment ago, at the start of Chapter 29, Pylades and Orestes leave Krisa once more and this time go bean counting in Cirrha. I do recognise – no need to say anything, Harpalus! – that this scene is immediately followed by the charioteering lesson.

Leonnatus I enjoyed the dinner scene with the local nobility, especially the way it gave Gill a chance to talk about what else is going on in Greece at this time. Also, I appreciated seeing the division between old and young – “Heroes aren’t what they were fifty years ago”. It made me smile; not just because that is a hoary old saying, but because one day Orestes will have his place alongside those heroes. Till then, I liked how Orestes, even though he was Agamemnon’s son, had little respect from his elders and so forth.

Meleager That scene gives Gill the chance to introduce(?) the theme of the inevitability of Orestes killing his mother and Aegisthus. Something I liked less, though, was his continuing melancholy. It felt rather emo for me.

Theban Al Well, you know, he is a young boy who is under a lot of pressure.

Meleager I know; perhaps I am being unfair! But I did find myself wishing he would buck up a little.

Theban Al If only Orestes had been English, he would have dealt with his problems so much more efficiently!

Meleager Oh, I expect his top lip would have quivered a little but no more than that.

Seleucus He obviously went to a minor public school. Anyone who allowed their lip to quiver at mine – dead parent or no – would have faced a ragging for the rest of the term.

Peucestas As much as we might like to talk about our schools, chaps, we are here to discuss Orestes; let us get back to the subject…!

Meleager Well, can I bring us back to Orestes’ emo-nature. A little further on, he talks about how hard his life will be without Hermione as his wife. But in what terms? Let me read what he says. “It rankled to contemplate a future without her as my wife. No one else was as beautiful or as wise or highborn enough to rule beside me as my queen and bear my sons.” So that’s what love means to him.

Seleucus To be sure, that is probably close to how he would have thought. Marrying for love’s sake alone is a very recent idea.

Meleager Well, he is certainly a budding patriarch.

Leonnatus I would like to mention Boukolos. I liked his character. Irascible; he actually reminded me a little of Anthony Blanche. As Orestes goes through his growing-up-and-becoming-boorish phase, Boukolos is definitely a welcome spot of light relief.

Meleager Yes, he is a good replacement for Timon who appears a little less in these chapters. And, goodness knows, as we come to Aktaia’s failed assassination attempt, his humour is appreciated.

Harpalus I was as disappointed by her sudden treachery as I was by Orestes’ earlier condemnation of her. Although, I suppose, it could be put down to her reaction to being rejected by him?

Meleager Either that or the gold she would have been offered. As we saw when she held the ribbons, she likes the finer things in life. It is not hard to imagine that the offer of gold would have been very attractive to her.

Peucestas We are nearly out of time, chaps, so let’s move on again. Chapter 31 – the raid on the brigands’ lair. I am going to be rather indelicate here, so I apologise in advance, but – “excrement and urine and blood befouled the close air”?

Seleucus What is your point, old boy?

Peucestas The presence of “excrement and urine”. Why?

Seleucus I should think that some of the brigands and – apologies for my own indelicacy – shit and pissed themselves before dying. It is exactly what the spy in Delphi does a little later on on.

Theban Al It can also happen at the moment of death. With death, the body’s muscles relax causing one to inadvertently soil oneself. Very embarrassing.

Peucestas How ghastly.

Harpalus I shouldn’t worry about it, too much; if it happens to you, if you even realise that it is, you will probably be dead a few seconds later.
Theban Al Just like Charlotte Corday after the guillotine!

Peucestas I’m not sure I follow you, Al, and I am not sure I want to! Harpalus, you are ever the rationalist; thank you.

Harpalus You are very welcome. Now, regarding that fight, did you notice how Orestes became nauseas when he thought about the woman he killed, afterwards? This reminded me of his first kill – the man whose head he caved in. That was a nice touch.

Seleucus I am going to bring the meeting to a close with a final observation. In Chapter 32, Orestes and Pylades ascend Mount Parnassus. They enter the cave with the statue of the squatting goddess.

Leonnatus I hate to bottle your thunder, old chap, but that is in Chapter 34. In 32, they salute Apollo when they hear the pan pipe player.

Seleucus Oh really? Dash it! I was so looking forward to that moment.

Peucestas Well, we shall leave it there, gentlemen; thank you for your contrbutions. We covered seven chapters today, and will do so again next time, bringing an end to our review of Laura Gill’s book.

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
Categories: The Mieza Book Club | Tags: | Leave a comment

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