Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice

My latest review over at Catholic

There’s nothing I’d rather do than to sit under a tree on a beautiful day and read a novel which transports me back in time. So I eagerly anticipated reading Selene of Alexandria by Faith Justice.

Admittedly, this was a hard book to get into. The author is a competent writer, but I initially had a difficult time bonding with the characters. As the story progressed, however, it became easier to relate to and bond with the characters.

Selene of Alexandria is a well-written, exquisitely-researched historical novel. It takes place in 412 AD and is the coming-of-age story of Selene, a teenager from a wealthy Christian family who yearns to be a physician. An early feminist, she has little interest in marriage.

Her family is not pleased, but eventually her father allows her to study with Hypatia, the renowned mathematician and philosopher of Alexandria. Because she is very intelligent and because she uses alternate means of healing, she gains many enemies and is eventually drawn into the rivalry between two candidates for Christian Patriarch: Cyril and Orestes, the Prefect.

Her childhood friend, Antonius, loves her, but she only has brotherly affection for him. She finds herself attracted to the Prefect, Orestes, although he is many years older. Other characters include Selene’s brothers, her father, Rebecca, a Jewish servant and many others. The climax of the story had me turning the pages very quickly.

A few criticisms…the cover was rather bland for a novel of this caliber. Also, I found some of the dialogue not consistent with the time period. And a warning: there is a sexually explicit scene in this book as well as a few near rape scenes which might be disturbing to younger readers. For these reasons, I would recommend this book to older teens and adults.

Selene of Alexandria is a well-written and well-researched novel. I recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction.

It is available on

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach


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