Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs

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Synopsis

In 406 BC, to seal a tenuous truce, the young Roman Caecilia is wedded to Val Mastarna, an Etruscan nobleman from the city of Veii. The fledgling Republic lies only twelve miles across the Tiber from its neighbor, but the cities are from opposing worlds so different are their customs and beliefs. Leaving behind a righteous Rome, Caecilia is determined to remain true to Roman virtues while living among the sinful Etruscans. Instead, she finds herself tempted by a hedonistic culture which offers pleasure and independence to women as well as an ancient religion that gives her a chance to delay her destiny. Yet Mastarna and his people also hold dark secrets and, as war looms, Caecilia discovers that Fate is not so easy to control and that she must finally choose where her allegiance lies.

Exploring themes of sexuality, destiny versus self-determination and tolerance versus prejudice, The Wedding Shroud is historical fiction at its best which vividly brings Ancient Rome and Etruria to life while accenting the lives of women in ancient history.

The Wedding Shroud was judged runner-up in the 2012 international Sharp Writ Book Awards in general fiction.

Review

Author Elisabeth Storrs explores the ancient world of the Etruscans in her lush novel The Wedding Shroud. Set in 407 B.C. a wealthy young Roman woman named Caecilia is married to an Etruscan magnate to seal a peace treaty between their two civilizations. Her husband is the powerful and wealthy Vel Mastarna. When she travels to his home in Veii where she is introduced to a culture vastly different and far more feral and decadent than the rigid, rule-oriented Rome she is forced to leave behind. Slowly, as time passes, Caecilia learns to love her new husband and life in Veii. She succumbs to temptation administered by her husband’s brother and soon finds herself trapped by religion and opiates.  

There is much to laud about this book. First, there is a rich story-line full of twists and turns, personal growth, and intriguing details. Secondly, the characters are fascinating, beautifully compelling, and very believable. Like the skin of an onion, the depth of each character is slowly, tantalizingly revealed as the tale progresses. And then there are the glorious details of ancient Etruscan and Roman everyday life that not only educates, but entertains From war to religion to fashion to food and drink, it is all laid out in fabulous detail – a testament to the vast research completed by the author. This ancient time comes alive with its brutality and excesses. Lovely, easy to read prose makes this a truly engrossing read.

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