Theodora, By Stella Duffy

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The Independent Culture

The author of twelve novels, including crime and genre fiction, Stella Duffy is a writer who doesn't stand still. Her latest work - a bravura re-imagining of the life of Theodora, Empress of Byzantium - is her best.

For any historical novelist, Theodora is a heaven-sent gift. Drawing on Procopius's salacious account of her life, Duffy traces Theodora's drama-filled journey from child prostitute and actress-whore, to Christian penitent and patrician wife of the Emperor Justinian.

Lavishly researched, Duffy's portrait of sixth-century Constantinople as a place where everything has its price, particularly women, is a memorable one.

The novel ends with Theodora and her new husband greeting the same crowds who once came to ogle her more acrobatic stunts.