I have never before hated a book. Never. Until now.
I forced myself to finish it, however, in the hopes that it would somehow redeem itself. I was not rewarded for my tenacity.
Manfredi's work, unlike other books I've seen, has the standard motion picture disclaimer on the page with all the copyright info. You know, the "This is a work of fiction. No resemblance to persons alive or dead is either stated or implied" thing. And, I guess he's right.
Any work of Historical Fiction is going to take some liberties, of course, and perhaps this one takes no more than any other in terms of how events transpired. The problem I had, however, is that this work transformed a man who conquered most of the known world by the time he was 32 into a flat, two dimensional shadow of what the real Alexander must have been.
Perhaps it was Iain Halliday's translation from the original Italian, but the story itself read like a seventh grade history report. Major points of exposition happened in dialogue. People made random decisions for no apparent reason. There was no depth or feeling to the characters. You couldn't understand why these people changed in the way they did. One moment Olympias is pining for the comfort of her husband, but five chapters later she hates him with a passion worthy of Hera. There's no transition, no explanation for why things happened the way they did.
And speaking of the translation, Halliday really shouldn't be allowed to translate anything other than family letters going forward. Speech patterns were, in his defense, framed in such a way that it sounded like formal court manner. However, when the King of the Macedonians suddenly bursts out with "Let's go lads!" you get the feeling that someone didn't do his homework and was just trying to get the job done.
Manfredi also takes a 'safe' out in skirting the issue of Alexander's rumored homo/bisexuality. Almost. He would have been better off omitting references to it all together, but instead, it's touched upon only two or three times in a way that makes the entire thing seem dirty or possibly imagined. It's alluded to in such a way as to make it seem like Alexander was almost ashamed of it. Sorry, but in the world of that time, it happened. There were entire ARMIES made up homosexual lovers pledged to stay at each other's side until they were killed. Manfredi also goes so far as to have Aristotle claim that Phillip's affair with Pausanias, his assassin, was wrong or dangerous somehow. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher who was raised in a climate where relationships between men was widely accepted, especially in educational situations such as tutor and student.
The book, on the whole, left me frustrated. Again, it was as if I was reading a seventh grade history report that barely scratched the surface of historical figures that have so much depth and richness to them... it's almost a shame.