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A Thing of Beauty: Travels in Mythical and Modern Greece (Hardcover)
“I really enjoyed this mashup of travel writing, musings on Greek mythology, and thoughts about climate change and its effect on our world. Fiennes drew me in with his study of Lord Byron and from there I was happy to pop in on his travels.”
— Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC
A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE YEAR
LONGLISTED FOR THE ANGLO-HELLENIC LEAGUE RUNCIMAN AWARD 2022
‘Peter Fiennes’s road trip around Greece [is] engagingly described’ Mary Beard, TLS
‘Fiennes is a brilliant and generous guide through Greece’ Observer
‘A wonderful… really profound meditation on what it means to hope… a gorgeous excursion into Greece and across the centuries on an environmental quest’ BBC Radio 4 Open Book Book of the Year choice by Anita Roy
What do the Greek myths mean to us today?
It’s now a golden age for these tales – they crop up in novels, films and popular culture. But what’s the modern relevance of Theseus, Hera and Pandora? Were these stories ever meant for children? And what’s to be seen now at the places where heroes fought and gods once quarrelled?
Peter Fiennes travels to the sites of some of the most famous Greek myths, on the trail of hope, beauty and a new way of seeing what we have done to our world. Fiennes walks through landscapes – stunning and spoiled – on the trail of dancing activists and Arcadian shepherds, finds the ‘most beautiful beach in Greece’, consults the Oracle, and loses himself in the cities, remote villages and ruins of this storied land.
About the Author
Peter Fiennes is the author of the critically acclaimed Footnotes, Oak and Ash and Thorn, and To War with God. As the publisher for Time Out, he nurtured a lifelong obsession with old guidebooks, creating award-winning city guides, walking books and titles about Britain’s countryside and seaside. He lives in south-west London.
‘Peter Fiennes’s road trip around Greece – engagingly described in A Thing of Beauty– began with a visit to Lord Byron’s house… Fiennes’s tough talk and his down-to-earth refusal to put up with pretentious silliness contributes a lot to the pleasure of the book… [he] is well attuned to the ambivalence of hope.’ — Mary Beard, Times Literary Supplement
‘Fiennes is a brilliant and generous guide… a must-read.’ — Alex Preston, Observer
‘This book is a lament for a poisoned planet… He goes in search of the numinous but relishes the bathos of modernity… not so much a travelogue as an excursion into the psyche of Anthropocene man.’ — Literary Review
‘A wonderful book by a wonderful writer.’ — Tom Holland
‘A wonderful… really profound meditation on what it means to hope… a gorgeous excursion into Greece and across the centuries on an environmental quest’ — BBC Radio 4 Open Book BOOK OF THE YEAR choice by Anita Roy
‘A Thing of Beauty is an immensely pleasurable read. It takes you on an adventure around Greece and the myths that the ancients told there. But what really stayed with me were the reflections on storytelling, joy, and hope. Essential reading for our pandemic and pollution ravaged times.’ — Helen Morales, author of Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths
‘Peter Fiennes has a way of making even the most serious of subjects enjoyable and riveting to the end, and A Thing of Beauty is certainly no exception, this is great travel writing that makes the reader a part of the adventure, and one of the most engaging and enjoyable books I’ve read this year.’ — Pilgrim House
‘A deeply humane travelogue, a beautifully written book of stories, A Thing of Beauty is a siren song for Greece and a generous and precious gift – a classical education for those of us who are bereft of one.’ — Patrick Barkham, natural history writer and author of Wild Child
‘Peter Fiennes… follows in the footsteps of Pausanias, Lord Byron and others to rediscover some of the most evocative landscapes and sites from classical myth.’ — Argo
‘Fiennes is a brilliant and generous guide through Greece. He weaves the ancient world and the modern together with intelligence and elegance… There’s a wry Sebaldian humour at work here … A Thing of Beauty is a must-read for anyone visiting Greece.’ — Alex Preston, Observer
‘A Thing of Beauty is an entertaining, erudite travelogue through Greece, both ancient and modern.’ — Foreword Reviews
‘An evocative and informative book… It’s for anyone interested in the Greek Gods and their myths, the Greek countryside and wildlife, Greek politics and history, climate change and sustainable living, whether there’s any hope in the world today… and just how many Greek salads can one man eat? If you’re interested in more than one of those topics, it’s definitely the book for you.’ — Greece Travel Secrets
‘Fiennes sets out to explore the birthplace of Western civilization, Greece, in search of Hope… It’s a highly personal travelogue…with the historical and modern-day detail that late British travel writer Jan Morris might bring to the task.’ — Booklist, starred review
‘Passionate and lyrical’ — Publishers Weekly
‘An enjoyable journey through Greek myths and modernity in [Fiennes’s] search for hope, beauty and new understanding of our world.’ — Choice Magazine
‘In A Thing of Beauty, myths are not presented as dust-covered artefacts but vibrant, living, often frightening things that, like Greek gods, still affect and manipulate our lives. The quest that Peter Fiennes undertakes is of urgent relevance in this time of environmental change. Startling, informative and often very funny.’ — Nick Hunt, author of Outlandish
‘Fiennes is a talent and an important voice. His search for hope in the stories of the past feels vital for these times.’ — Rob Cowen, author of Common Ground
‘A Thing of Beauty is such a joy. Peter Fiennes invites us to travel with him to visit the ancient Oracle at Delphi as he searches for hope while the pre-vaccine pandemic is at its height and the wild fires rage. Self-deprecating, funny, deeply knowledgeable about Greek mythology, yet simultaneously confronting the challenges that face our world head-on, Fiennes is a most delightful travelling companion.’ — Katharine Norbury, author of The Fish Ladder and editor of Women on Nature