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E-Book cover of The Flowers of Adonis by Rosemary Sutcliff, 2014 edition

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The Flowers of Adonis historical fiction Ancient Greece Alkibiades Alcibiades Rosemary Sutcliff book cover

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Endeavour Press have now republished in E form Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical fiction novel The Flowers of Adonis, about Alkibiades, who The Times in an interview to mark its publication in 1969 called “one of the most enigmatic figures in Greek History”. It is a novel of the Peloponnesian War, and Alkibiades’s relationship with Athens, and the dreadful battle at Syracuse.
Times Oct 27 1969 on Rosemary Sutcliff


  • Source: The Times, October 27, 1969, p6

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Poor research: I clipped this from a newspaper in 2010, but I did not note which one!

(But see comments below for more details)

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From Rosemary Sutcliff fan Anjy  Roemelt (posted at the Facebook page for Rosemary Sutcliff):

I started reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Flowers of Adonis today and within three pages it had me caught by the neck and submerged into the old Sutcliff magic. I have so often already thought ‘this is her best book, this will be my all-time favourite’. I thought so after I read Three Legions, I though so every time I read The Shield Ring and I certainly thought so after I had read The Shining Company, but, of course, that was before I read Dawn Wind!

I still think, Dawn Wind is perfect in every syllable but I’m fascinated by The Flowers of Adonis. I thought I could smell and hear the scene before I could see it, like dawn slowly lifting from the streets of Athens, and before I ever knew what Alcibiades looked like – far less who he is, never having been as familiar with ancient Greece than with ancient Britain – I could feel Thimoteus’ urge to follow him.

We are busy readers in my family and on our shelves the books stand three rows deep, but the likes of Rosemary Sutcliff I have never found anywhere else.

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Alkibiades, the hero of Rosemary Sutcliff’s  novel The Flowers of Adonis, was one of the more enigmatic figures of Greek history. When this historical novel ‘for adults’ was published in 1969 by Hodder and Stoughton (costing 35 shillings in old money), Rosemary was inteviewed by The Times  newspaper (Oct 27, 1969).

I was trained at art school, but then the desire to scribble came over me. I got my interest in history from my mother who had a sort of minstrel’s, rather than historian’s knowledge. Inaccurate, but full of colourful legend. I disliked history at school ….

… They do say that to be a successful children’s writer one has to have a large lump of unlived childhood in one. I certainly think I have that.

You have to show children that good does overcome evil, but that does not necessarily mean that the old lady you helped then pays for your ballet lessons! The satisfaction should just be coming from the fact that you have done right.

… It is easier to give a book a historical setting, because children will take things happening then rather than right on their own doorsteps now.

Source: The Times, Oct 27, 1969, p6.

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In the introduction to her historical novel  The Flowers of Adonis, Rosemary Sutcliff wrote:

I have provided a possible explanation for Antiochus’s insane foolhardiness when left in command of the Athenian Fleet, because Thucidides’s bald account is so unbelievable (unless one assumes that both Antiochus and Alkibiades were mentally defective) that any explanation seems more likely than none.
Alkibiades himself is an enigma. Even allowing that no man is all black and all white, few men can ever have been more wildly and magnificently piebald. Like another strange and contradictory character Sir Walter Raleigh, he casts a glamour that comes clean down the centuries, a dazzle of personal magnetism that makes it hard to see the man behind it. I have tried to see. I have tried to fit the pieces into a coherent whole; I don’t know whether I have been successful or not; but I do not think that I have anywhere falsified the portrait.

The Flowers of Adonis by Rosemary Sutcliff; book cover

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