Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour In Exile by Alexandra Turney. It combines mythology, women’s fiction and a coming-of-age story, and presents it in a toned down almost old-fashioned way.
Alexandra Turney grew up in London and studied English Literature at the University of Oxford. Her love of Romantic poets (and pasta) inspired her to move to Rome, where she has lived since 2013. She works as an English teacher and freelance writer. In Exile is her first novel.
About the book
‘No one in this city has believed in me for two thousand years. I’m unknown and unloved. And I’m very, very ill.’ He sighed, and the sound chilled her blood. ‘Give me your hand.’
Dionysus, god of wine and divine ecstasy, is reborn in modern Rome. He doesn’t understand how or why he’s come to be here – a pagan god in a city where he has no believers. But when he meets fifteen-year-old Grace during a chance encounter in the Ghetto, he realises he has found his first new follower.
This is the beginning of Grace’s secret life, as she and her friends overcome scepticism and fear to become his worshippers, drinking his wine and taking part in bacchanals across the city. As the melancholy god lives out his exile, his teenage followers find they have everything to lose. And after the first bloodshed, they know that there’s no turning back…Review
What would happen if a god graced us with his presence. A god of wine and uninhibited joy, and yet there are also some that say he is also deliberate and vengeful. This is the story of when a girl meets a god and his world of old and her world of new meld into one.
I think it’s important to remember the fact the girls are reading The Bacchae when Grace meets the god and then later introduces him to her friends. In a way the story and their experiences reflect some of the mythology they have read, which could suggest a mass hysteria of young minds, but then who can say whether Greek gods don’t walk the earth and cause chaos all the time.
As far as Grace, Caroline and Sara are aware there are just the three of them, and yet Dionysus now and again lets slip a reference to another person. The four of you and then there’s nine. It made me think of the nine muses of Greek mythology.
Although the story circles around the god and the self discovery of the girls or mainly the inner emotional turmoil of Grace, there are some poignant moments that speak to the majority of teenage girls as they transcend from the innocence of youth to the complex world of raging hormones and sexual desire.
The listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from frenzied excitement or equally a sense of boredom, which crescendos like a volcanic explosion in a shower of impulsive actions and emotions, and is almost synonymous with being young. The author translates those feelings to written word. Not an easy feat at all.
The story between Grace and Caroline in particular speaks to the first experiments of a sexual nature, which statistically happen, for most teenagers, between friends of the same gender. When hormones are mistaken for real emotions, and forbidden lust is equated to love. Tender kisses and fumbling, become eroticised breathless moments to be forgotten as they grow older and discover their sexual identity and experience love and other such things of that nature.
Turney combines mythology, women’s fiction and a coming-of-age story, and presents it in a toned down almost old-fashioned way. On one hand this means anyone can read it, because the lechery, sexual encounters and the moments of pure abandonment are only hinted it. It also means those moments are left free to self interpretation and the imagination of each reader.
It has the charm of an early 20th century upper class story with hints of debauchery, and yet it simultaneously has the devil may care abandoned nature and exploration of a more modern piece of fiction.