cover image Goatsong: A Novel of Ancient Athens

Goatsong: A Novel of Ancient Athens

Tom Holt. St. Martin's Press, $16.95 (247pp) ISBN 978-0-312-03838-0

Holt, whose fantasy, Expecting Someone Taller , earned fine reviews, now offers an impeccable historical novel about classical Athens as seen through the eyes of a comic playwright--Eupolis of Pallene. Born 38 years after the battle of Salamis established Athens as the preeminent Greek power, Eupolis spends his youth mainly in the company of his father's goats. From age nine onward, he warbles childish poems to these animals, and even writes a play called The Goats in honor of its chorus and first audience. When war breaks out between Sparta and Athens, however, the mood darkens; the great plague decimates Athens and orphans Eupolis. Yet in due course he develops a brilliant career as a comic poet, and gets to know luminaries of the era, including Aristophanes, Cleon and Socrates. Holt's view of one of Western history's greatest periods is hard-edged and debunking, although leavened with irony and a love story--that of Eupolis and his bad-tempered wife Phaedra. This engaging work is the first book in a series to be called The Walled Orchard. (Feb.)