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Extended Audio Sample Stealing Athena: A Novel Audiobook, by Karen Essex Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (629 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Karen Essex Narrator: Susan Denaker Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2008 ISBN: 9780739366318
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The author of the bestselling Leonardo’s Swans traverses the centuries into the hearts of two extraordinary women to reveal the passions, ambitions, and controversies surrounding the Elgin Marbles.

The Elgin Marbles have been displayed in the British Museum for nearly two hundred years, and for just as long they have been the center of a raging controversy. In Stealing Athena, Karen Essex chronicles the Marbles’ amazing journey through the dynamic narratives of Mary Nisbet, wife of the Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to Constantinople, and Aspasia, the mistress of Perikles, the most powerful man in Athens during that city’s Golden Age.
At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the twenty-one-year-old, newly wed Countess of Elgin, a Scottish heiress and celebrated beauty, enchanted the power brokers of the Ottoman Empire, using her charms to obtain their permission for her husband’s audacious plan to deconstruct the Parthenon and bring its magnificent sculptures to England. Two millennia earlier, Aspasia, a female philosopher and courtesan, and a central figure in Athenian life, plied her wits, allure, and influence with equal determination, standing with Perikles at the center of vehement opposition to his vision of building the most exquisite monuments the world had ever seen.
Rich in romance and intrigue, greed and glory, Stealing Athena is an enthralling work of historical fiction and a window into the intimate lives of some of history’s most influential and fascinating women. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • Historical fiction at its finest. St. Petersburg Times
  • A great adventure story. . . . Essex delves deeply into the lives and times of her characters in settings as diverse as ancient Greece and 18th-century Constantinople, France and Great Britain, and her women characters are spirited and memorable. The Times-Picayune
  • Stealing Athena expounds on the weight of the past, the power of art, and the strength of women who exercised free will even when they had the fewest rights…. Uniquely relevant. Los Angeles Times

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carolyn | 2/12/2014

    " I really loved Stealing Athena -- the history of Lord Elgin's fanatical devotion to the cause of bringing the statuary from the Acropolis (the "Elgin marbles") to England. His amazing wife and their relationship is the heart of the story, and it meshes well with flashbacks to the life of Pericles and his courtesan Aspasia. It's an epic tale, the characters are larger-than-life, and I was completely carried away. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Robin | 2/3/2014

    " Have to admit, I got 1/2 way thru and couldn't finish, lost interest in main character Mary. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Megan | 1/25/2014

    " A lot of the scenes could've been done without. It was an OK book that just went on too long. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Keith | 1/24/2014

    " This book was fascinating!!! It is about the man Lord Elgin and his wife Mary, and their moving the ancient marbles of Greece to England..I really enjoyed it mostly because I had read the author's other books Kleopatra and Pharoah(Kleopatra Pt. II) and loved both of those books..If you are interested in England and the ancient times of Greece then this is a book you should definitely read!!! I was very happy to have read her books and look forward to reading her other books as well!!! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lorin Cary | 1/24/2014

    " Essex's avowed purpose is to "reframe history from the female point of view, and here she does that by focusing on Mary Nisbet, wed to Lord Elgin, in the early 19th century and Aspasia, courtesan and adviser to Athenian statesman Pericles. Elgin's obsession is with the Greek sculptures, even today housed in the British Museum. She alternates between the two stories,in each case showing the cultural and legal restrictions on women. Of the two portraits, the one of Mary is by far the more successful---perhaps because of the richer historical literature. Steeped in the historical literature, Essex is not dominated by it; she provides a guide to reading and on her web site an extensive bibliography. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathyred | 1/23/2014

    " audiobook-Follows 2 women closely associated w/ what we now call the Elgin marbles; Lady Elgin, and Aspasia-concubine of the builder of the Parthenon. The marbles themselves are a central character, but there are also issues of love, respect, glory (and the search for it), the role of women in society and law, art, religion and motherhood. Fictionalized, but based very closely on verifiable history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracy | 1/16/2014

    " Very interesting. I enjoyed watching the parallels unfold between the story set in the early 1800s and the one in Grecian times. Since the book is based on true events it was even more interesting. I found the women's struggles not surprising but still frustrating. I found that the book dragged a bit and think the author set herself up a bit by alternating between plot points because sometimes nothing was really going on in the other woman's life. Interesting and thought-provoking read though. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leigh Mann | 12/20/2013

    " Historical fiction completely based on actual events, alternating between early 1800's and ancient Greece. Uneven. I'm sure the research was impeccable, the author never seemed to stop cramming the facts in, regardless of the pacing of the story. Sometimes the writing was lovely and the main storyline is compelling. As difficult as the first 3/4 of the book was to get through I couldn't put it down at the end (though I skimmed the Greek parts as they slowed the narrative down). Would like to be able to give this more than three stars, just can't. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Barb | 12/16/2013

    " Enjoyed this one. Great voices strong women, both Mary Tisbet and Aspasia. It is amazing that in the 1800's, they were able to trasport these artifacts so far. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen | 12/10/2013

    " outstanding historical novel - I was surprised midway when I learned the characters were based upon actual people. Learned a lot and enjoyed story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Linda | 12/5/2013

    " I didn't get a strong overlap between the 2 women - one the wife of Lord Essex, the other an alien courtesan in Greece when the Parthenon was being built - other than 2 constellations of events around the statuary. Slow. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lesley | 10/24/2013

    " Good book, though at times slow the last quarter of the book had me glued. A definate read for anyone interested in the history of Pericles of Athens and his and Pheidias construction/adornment of the Parthenon and it's subsequent destruction. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rose | 10/23/2013

    " A surprising lack of real conflict until the last 150 pages. THOSE pages were good. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Camille | 10/22/2013

    " Interesting history of Mary Nesbit, Lady Elgin. As I listened to the book, I wanted to find out what happened to her, found I was not as intrigued with the ancient story...sort of ff through those bits. Interesting history of the Elgin Marbles. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lindsey Cook | 10/21/2013

    " Overall a good book, however the beginning could use alot of work. It is very slow getting into, that i felt giving up a few times. The story is very interesting, and while maybe not 100% historically accurate is very close. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina | 8/30/2013

    " Lots of cool mythological facts intertwined with a journey of a spoiled scottish woman and her historical antithesis courtesan of mythological times. Evidently based on a true story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sage | 6/29/2013

    " Good book. She has really researched the topic and tells the history very well. I definitely suggest it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Krystel | 3/17/2013

    " I really liked this book. I thought it was real written and really gave an insiders peak on not only how life was in the 1800's but also like ancient times. I really felt the character's embarassement, despair, and livliness throughout the book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 RevMaggie | 2/14/2013

    " Wonderful historical novel that was captivating. It held my attention throughout. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jmiller | 10/7/2012

    " I enjoyed visualizing the Elgin marbles intact in Greece. Was fortunate to see pieces in England several years ago. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Molly | 2/16/2012

    " This was a good one -- two periods in history from two women's perspectives. The connection between Aspasia in ancient Greece and Lady Elgin in Napoleanic times is subtle and well-done, and the historical content is integrated seamlessly. Totally enjoyable and informative! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sean | 10/31/2011

    " Parallel story--of Lord Elgin, gathering up the treasures of the Parthenon, and of Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles in ancient Athens. Good historical fiction on both counts. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lesley | 4/30/2011

    " Good book, though at times slow the last quarter of the book had me glued. A definate read for anyone interested in the history of Pericles of Athens and his and Pheidias construction/adornment of the Parthenon and it's subsequent destruction. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stacy | 2/26/2011

    " I like the way this book took two women from compleatly different times and showed how they shared so much in common eventhough one was a honest wife and the orbs a concubine. Also great moral code....how greed always leads to distruction. Even of grey things. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ute | 12/18/2010

    " good,though a little slow in places. A bit too much about antiquities for me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dia | 12/8/2010

    " Another favorite this yeaer! I love the how the book intertwined ancient greece with the Elgens, and the story of how the marbles came to London. Fantastic book about a woman wanting more and what she made of her life and the struggles to be independent then. READ IT! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Robin | 12/6/2010

    " Have to admit, I got 1/2 way thru and couldn't finish, lost interest in main character Mary. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Krystel | 10/16/2010

    " I really liked this book. I thought it was real written and really gave an insiders peak on not only how life was in the 1800's but also like ancient times. I really felt the character's embarassement, despair, and livliness throughout the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gigi | 9/26/2010

    " This book is for anyone who likes Historical Fiction. I highly recommend it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Megan | 8/13/2010

    " A lot of the scenes could've been done without. It was an OK book that just went on too long. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Barb | 7/11/2010

    " Enjoyed this one. Great voices strong women, both Mary Tisbet and Aspasia. It is amazing that in the 1800's, they were able to trasport these artifacts so far. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Hikerdee | 5/4/2010

    " I listed to this audiobook during commutes. "

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About the Author
Author Karen Essex

Karen Essex is the author of several novels, including Dracula in Love, Stealing Athena, Leonardo’s Swans, Kleopatra, and Pharaoh. Also an award-winning journalist and a screenwriter, she wrote Bettie Page: Life of a Pinup Legend, the only authorized biography of the late pin-up icon. She divides her time between London and Los Angeles

About the Narrator

Susan Denaker is an actress and Earphones Award–winning narrator. Her extensive theater credits include numerous plays in the West End of London, national tours, many English rep companies, including a season with Alan Ayckbourn’s company in Scarborough. In the US, she has appeared in Our Town and Sweet Bird of Youth at the La Jolla Playhouse and Breaking Legs at the Westport Playhouse.