3 out of 4 stars
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The Fox by M.N.J. Butler is a historical fiction novel. It was first published in the year 1995 and was republished in the year 2018. This is the story of the Greek people of Sparta as told by Leotychides, supposed son of king Agis of Sparta, known as the cockerel.
Leotychides noticed in his early childhood that he gets unexplainable attention from people. He also noticed his father's coldness towards him. These make him curious about the events leading to his birth. Will he find the answers he seeks?
The title of this book was probably coined from a story once told by Doreius, about the boy who hid a stolen Fox in his cloak and let it gnaw through to his innards until it killed him without uttering a cry, rather than reveal his theft. This is an allegory that will play a major role in Leotychides conduct and Sparta’s expectations of its people.
The people of Sparta are interestingly educated when considered alongside their neighbouring cities. They were well informed and law-abiding. Spartan boys as young as 7 years old entered a rigorous training known as the Agoge. The Agoge inculcates such values as loyalty, endurance, duty and discipline. Spartan men were professional soldiers, and their women, although not active fighters, were educated and enjoyed more freedom. Worthy of mentioning is their openness to homosexuality. They also agree that a man can arrange with another man to help him get his wife pregnant. In this case, the child is for the husband and is entitled to every benefit therein. Sparta as no bastard!
The Fox is well researched and brilliantly written. You will marvel at the historical accuracy of this book. Although slow-paced, the book developed considerably as it progresses. At the start of this 27 chapters book, the author, aware of the many characters therein, and the possibility of readers getting confused presented a schematic representation of the royal houses of Sparta. He also included a glossary. The tale was narrated in a conversational manner, alternating between Leotychides present life in king Philippos courtyard and the events of his life as a Sparta royalty.
This book is a very long read and it requires patience to get the most from it. Regrettably, the lines are not well spaced in my electronic copy and the letters are tiny making it even more difficult to read. It is, however, professionally edited as I didn’t notice any errors while reading it.
Lovers of history, anthropology and particularly those who are familiar or who seek to be familiar with the ancient Greek stories will find this book invaluable. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I deducted 1 star particularly because the lines are not well spaced and this posses a problem for enjoyable reading.
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