In Exile

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

My thanks to Unbound Digital for a digital edition via NetGalley of Alexandra Turney’s ‘In Exile’ in exchange for an honest review. It was published in January 2019. I have since bought my own copy.

The Greek god of wine and divine ecstasy, Dionysus, is reborn in modern-day Rome. He is melancholy and feeling unloved given that he has had no worshippers for many years. Then he meets fifteen-year old British ex-pat Grace, who has just read The Bacchae for her Classics course. She is able to identify Dionysus and is intrigued by him.

Before long Grace and her school friends, Sara and Caroline, are secretly meeting with Dionysus and engaging in weekly bacchanals. They find that they have very little memory of these sessions. As the year progresses these become more disturbing as Dionysus grows strong feeding off their adoration. 

Although this has themes of faith and religion at its heart with the premise of a reborn pagan god, it can also be read as symbolic of the kind of exploitation that some young women fall victim to.

I have to admit that before reading ‘In Exile’ I had anticipated a much lighter book about a modern day teen’s encounter with a Greek god; yet I welcomed this darker tale, which so accurately portrayed the lure of embracing the unknown and losing one’s self in divine ecstasy.

This proved an intelligent and intense coming-of-age story. It is beautifully and passionately written with vivid descriptions of its setting. The more explicit aspects of the bacchanals are left to the reader’s imagination as Turney offers glimpses of the girls’ disturbing morning afters.  

It is a novel that I will likely return to and reread in order to further appreciate its themes and symbolism. I shall also be recommending it as a reading group selection given the scope for discussion of its various aspects.
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I'm clearly in the minority with my rating of this book. The description of it made it seem like it was going to be a great story and I was super excited to read it. Maybe this just wasn't the right time, especially since I had started it in the middle of term at school, but I just didn't find myself getting excited to pick the story up. I usually read this when I had a few minutes free before work or if I had needed a break from schoolwork. However, I just found myself underwhelmed every time I picked it up. There was some character progression with Grace, Sara as well, but I didn't really see much with Caroline. Even with the little character progression we get with the two, they still felt similar to when the book had started out. And I really couldn't have cared less about Dionysus. He was dull, didn't seem to care much about the girls and only cared for himself. He didn't really add much to the story outside of the ritual of the bacchanals.
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Suspended Between Guilty Excitement and Horrified Dread

In Exile by Alexandra Turney is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat from cover to cover. Suspended between guilty excitement and horrified dread, I giggled and gasped like a teenager as Grace, Caroline, and Sarah struggled through the dichotomy of boring high school days and wild bacchanalian nights.

Lacking a cautionary lesson for over-indulgers of forbidden pleasures, In Exile is more of a ghost story than a modern Bacchae. But parents of teenagers could learn a lot from this exciting and enlightening glimpse into the terrifying effect of a man's ulterior motives on the impressionable minds of teenage kids.

From whichever point of view you read In Exile, Alexandra Turney will masterfully manipulate your emotions. This book is very well written, with extraordinary attention given to creating believable characters, realistic dialogues, and divinely surreal events.
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I found this book just ok from the description i expected a different kind of book but it was worth reading
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Grace is bored, it’s Summer in Italy and everyone is on holiday….while wandering she comes across a man, he claims to be Dionysus, an ancient god……somehow here in modern day Rome !!

Obviously she doesn’t believe him….that would be madness…. wouldn’t it?

But she soon changes her mind and soon recognises what he is. Her friends Sara and Caroline return from their holidays and she tells them all about Dionysus……and he is now glad to have these ‘nymphs’ to feed him…

Dionysus is the god of grapes and wine, but he is also the god of ritual madness and religious mania and he will lead the three teenagers to something new…….

This is a beautifully written tale by Alexandra Turney, of lost innocence, the building of a religious cult and how easy it is to influence the impressionable young, worse for wear due to wine and a smooth talking, charismatic being……. Just what are they capable of and do they fear the consequences? A scary thought. 

A quite extraordinary tale, which brings a bit of ancient mythology to the  modern day…..

Thank you to The Author , publisher and NetGalley  for a free copy of the ebook  in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
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This is an oddly intriguing novel, with some interesting points to make, but with some frankly unbelievable plotting. The Greek god Dionysus is reborn in 20th century Rome, living the life of an itinerant beggar or homeless person, sleeping rough in an abandoned church. He meets Grace, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, and with her 2 friends Caroline and Sara they strike up an unlikely group of worshippers, whose Friday night visits to Dionysus develop into wilder and wilder bacchanalias. 

The period in which the novel is set is deliberately vague. It is a time before mobile phones and the internet, definitely. There are a couple of references to some of the characters playing Dean Martin’s ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ on vinyl (vinyl!), which was released in 1964 so can we assume this is 1960s Rome? I guess this unwillingness to set a specific time works, for what takes place is all about escaping the norms of society, of giving in to the passions and losing yourself in the moment. However – and this is a pretty big however – I simply could not get my head round the way the three girls behaved, staying out several nights a week, getting blind drunk on wine, whilst their families seemed to take little or no interest in where they might have been, or even notice any hangovers. Furthermore, for a book set in Rome, there are precious few Italians in the story. The girls seem to attend some sort of international school, and so the book is pretty much entirely populated by English-speakers of various nationalities. In some ways it adds to the sense of living in a bubble with limited freedom for Grace and her friends, so their attraction to Dionysus and their desire to escape their lives is understandable. Just don’t think for too long that the story is one involving an older man having wild bacchanalian orgies with 3 under-age girls. Hmmm.

I’m divided in my feelings for the book. It rattled along at a good pace, certainly, and the wider themes of religion, human nature, sexual exploration, and adolescence do give a structure and interest to the plot. But I didn’t find the main characters very believable, and the secondary family members were flat stereotypes, and again, the fact that all of this happens without anyone else finding out is just silly. Anyone familiar with the Dionysus myth will be able to see the ending coming, but credit to the author, who makes it suitably allusive and vague, hinting at what happens without explicitly describing it. It’s what might or will happen to the girls after the book ends that leaves you wondering. 

Overall, then, a bit of a mixed bag for me; an interesting premise but with some flaws in character and believability. A middle-of-the-road 3 stars for this one.

(With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of the book.)
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The story was interesting and unusual enough that it kept me reading,  but got to be monotonous w teen angst and the ending was awful and completely unsatisfying
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review
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In her first novel In Exile the author Alexandra Turney throws you into the Eternal city. The city itself is completely overlooked, which I actually rather enjoyed. However, it find the fact that the story seems so timeless quite symbolic because of its setting. The book itself is divided into three parts which are separated very logically. Each of the parts represents the emotions that mainly the protagonist Grace, but also her friends Caroline and Sara are experiencing towards the god Dionysus.
On the very first page we are introduced to Dionysus who wakes up in modern Rome. He is instantly confronted with the fact that not a single soul worships him still. At the same moment, in the same city, a girl is bored to death. Her name is Grace. She is angsty, melodramatic, has questionable taste in (girl)friends and is longing for an adventure she will not forget. Little does she know that on an innocent walk she will encounter a stranger who will fill her with fear and love she has never felt before.

I have many opinions on this book, and also many emotions. At first the book was quite fast paced, then in the second part it slowed down tremendously. I hoped it would become a bit faster paced, which it did in the third part. I love the faster paced parts better. I simply felt as if at moments the author simply didn’t know how to fill the in-betweens and connect the main plot points. She didn’t do a bad job, far from that, it was simply noticeable to me.

The characters. Hmm. I longed to love them. Especially Caroline and Dionysus. Simply because those two seems like they had that unique dark potential I enjoy so much. However, Dionysus seem a bit flat most of the time. There were moments when we were given a glimpse into his thoughts, but they were short and simply not enough for me to connect with him. And Caroline was at the beginning simply unlikable, then I despised her, but when she became even more important to Grace that before I liked her a bit more. I simply feel like Caroline could have been given so much more depth and flesh. Sara was such an uninteresting character I know I will forget her quite soon.
I am not sure if all these things were ment to be this way, but they bugged me (except for the Sara part, I don’t really care about her).

In conclusion, this a fine book. It had a charming bit of greek mythology, which I always appreciate. When I started reading it I hadn’t heard it being compared to The Secret History by Donna Tartt, but I soon discovered it had the same vibe. I will not implicate that there is some sort of plagiarism here, because there isn’t! Simply, there are some similarities in the stories. The main reason I am mentioning this is because if you enjoyed The Secret History or any other dark academia novel then you will probably enjoy this one as well. Also, I just wanted to say that I really like the cover!

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I'm adding this to my "mythology retellings" shelf only because I don't know under which other category I might put this. The cover! And what an amazing idea! Three contemporary teens get involved with the newly awakened god Dionysos, who needs worshippers to sustain his existence - and who better to start a cult than 15-year old Grace, who's just had to read The Bacchae as a summer assignment and is pretty miserable in general?

Disclaimer: This novel is not at all YA, if that's what you think after reading the blurb, but it displays a remarkably realistic respresentation of what a teenage girl's life is like. You'll get more of a psychedelic read from it, as the three friends slip further into madness through their repeated bacchanals, and tensions are steadily growing among them. The clique quickly gets addicted to the god's presence - quite frankly, I read him as an allegory of teen drinking culture. I've also been to Rome and can say that the descriptions of Latium's visuals are on point!

Unfortunately, I was absolutely turned off by the fact that none of the protagonists are Italian, despite the story taking place in contemporary Rome, though not during a clearly discernible decade (for example, the girls won't google things but check the newspaper instead). And I read up on the author, so I know that Grace and her friends being British exapatriates in Rome is a very autobiographical part of the plot, that their condescending attitude towards Italy is surely not a reflection of Turney's opinions. Of course I'm aware that no teenager would be delighted if their parents decided for the whole family to move to a foreign country - in fact, I've been that teenager myself. But such stories just hold no interest for me? I can't connect with this Western take on Greek mythology? I'm sorry.

I would personally be elated if this was a more Mediterranean encounter with the deity, but it sadly isn't. And as I said, this does get increasingly psychedelic and I had no idea where the book would take me - ultimately, it took me to a place of few explanations, but not towards an end I didn't foresee. Still, I would wholeheartedly recommend that lovers and students of Classics read In Exile for its truly frightening version of Dionysus and the plot idea itself.
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Three fifteen year old girls getting blotto on wine every Friday night; unable to remember any of the details they spend the rest of the weekend nursing their hangovers.  Not terribly unusual behaviour except these are English girls living in Rome, in what I assumed to be the 1950s, although it’s not explicitly stated.  Oh, and they’ve fallen in with the Greek god Dionysus and their drinking sessions are actually bacchanals.

Dionysus is disdainful and lethargic, not seemingly someone to inspire devotion but the girls are in thrall to him. He’s awoken to a millennium in which he’s unremembered and unnoticed, and isn’t that just frightfully dull?

Dionysus is mostly in the background and the bacchanals happen off the page – afterwards the girls don’t even remember anything but the haziest details.  So this book is really all about the teenage ennui.  Grace, the main character, spends a lot of time taking long baths and sulking in her room.  They go to school and occasionally venture out on to the streets of Rome.  They tell their parents they are having sleepovers, when they’re really with Dionysus.  

Slowly, ever so gradually, their secret behaviour begins to escalate (although it is still only hinted at), and the girls’ feelings of doubt and guilt increase. The final violent denouement was described in vague and ambiguous terms, which I actually loved, but it came too late in the book - the very final pages - to have the kind of impact that it warranted.

The girls’ transgressions are very mild by today’s standards, but teenage drunkenness and sexual exploration would have been shocking for the times.  It’s as if the author decided to write the kind of book that would have been risqué in the 1950s, rather than applying any sort of modern lens to the proceedings.  This makes it feel like a throwback, but I found it an enjoyable one and strangely beguiling in its hazy, gauzy way.
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Summer in Italy can be rather boring when all the friends are on holiday with their families. But Grace’s boredom finds an end when she stumbles across an ancient god, Dionysus. Quite naturally she doesn’t believe his story in the beginning, but slowly recognised who or rather: what he really is. When her friends Caroline and Sara return, she tells them about him and they are eager to meet him, too. So is the ancient god and since he has been longing for nymphs to feed him, the three teenagers are a welcome prey for his doings. Dionysus, not only the god of grapes and wine making, but also the god of ritual madness and religious ecstasy will lead the girls to somewhere they have never been before. 

I am torn between finding it wonderful and shaking my head when it comes to Alexandra Turney’s second novel. On the one hand, it is beautifully written and I was captivated from the start, on the other hand, it is all a bit too much and too unrealistic. I was waiting all the time for some kind of revelation that could explain it all. Maybe it is just my being a bit too serious that keeps me from imaging an ancient god being reborn and founding a new kind of cult.

What I found quite realistic, in contrast, was how the three girls are spell-bound by the god and become addicted to his wine. It doesn’t take them too long until their whole thinking only circles around their Friday evening ecstasies. They eagerly sacrifice everything that was important to them before for their new god and the feelings that arouse when being drunk. They aren’t even scared when they realise what they are capable of doing when being drunk. 

An extraordinary book that sure captures the spirit and atmosphere of Rome where you sometimes are lead to believe that all is possible and where the long history can carry away your thoughts easily.
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The premise of this was a hook I couldn't ignore: Dionysus, alone of all the gods, somehow awakened in modern times. And there he is found by Grace and her two BFFs, ordinary girls who follow his path into unknown lands, the deepest parts of their souls. Yet for all the violent turbulence of their new lives, there is no emotion in this. The characters are flat and distant, never more than the lightest touch on the page. Everything about the book needed to be more. The Bacchae is darkly disturbing, fraught with feeling and tragedy and that sense of a brutal clashing of worlds, the breaking of boundaries. This is like watching teens on a school trip get into a bit of trouble. Perhaps if the writing had been more complex, if the author had dared to mine the depths of these girls' unconscious desires, but it was all choppy words and petty desires. Disappointingly simplistic and too young to be truly affecting. Perhaps it needs to be made more explicit that it's a YA style title.


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I loved the premise of this book, a Greek god coming back to enthrall young women and find his place in a very modern world, but I have to say I just couldn’t get into this. The story didn’t draw me in and I felt the prose was flat. 
I couldn’t finish it so not one for me I’m afraid.
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This book starts as one thing, and swiftly turns into another. And I loved it!
Reading the blurb, I reckoned on a YA cliche of a Greek god coming back to modernity and a teen girl getting all friendly with him
But this is so much more. The author has captured the ennui of the teenage years, where school is boring, and the summers are boring, and life itself feels oppressive, heavy and boring. Our protagonist, Grace, is fifteen and bored. Nothing happens in her town (which we read to be in Greece, though it is not ever explicitly mentioned), her friends are away on holidays, and she can't stand her family. She roams the streets, where she finds... Dionysius, in the flesh, newly in her world and very, very weak. He has no worshippers, no followers, and what is a God without them? So Grace becomes his. And it all starts from there.
I loved that Grace is a typical teenager. She thinks she knows best, but is easily manipulated by the god. I love that Dionysius is so utterly inhuman, cruel and concerned only for himself and the pursuit of divine pleasure... And I love that the further you read into the novel, the darker and more terrifying it becomes. Because when you lose yourself to divine pleasure, it appears you lose your humanity as well. 
Highly recommended.
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A reincarnated Dionysus living in 20th century Rome is identified by a 15-yr old British expat named Grace, who'd just finished reading The Bacchae for her Classics course. Stereotypical teen Grace is bored and helpless; unable to lose weight, to find romance or self-confidence, or to rise above average in Maths, Chemistry, Physics or PE. But that's not to say she's an underdeveloped character; Grace has artistic interests, a delightfully preposterous family background, and an extraordinary imagination, in which she escapes to the safety of dreams of her future self.

Grace introduces Dionysus to her shoplifting friend named Caroline who is over-confident, bossy and beautiful and also to Sara who is sweet, devout and caring. At first the trio's belief in his existence has a healing effect on the ailing god, but nothing is ever enough. These kids spiral out of control, mired in the inevitability of fate, awash in the notion that nothing matters, and defenseless against their dependence, and the violent and terrifying nature of their baser instincts.  

A few of my favorite lines:
"Pentheus denies reality, repressing an instinct, the wild and savage part of himself. It's the repression of something natural that causes tragedy. When we deny ourselves we are doomed." 
"Men were always subjugating women, making them powerless even as they claimed to love them. But Dionysus understood what women were capable of; he knew they could be stronger, more fearless than any man." 
"Besides, you couldn't expect the same level of sincerity from gods as you could from humans"
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Book Review: In Exile
Author: Alexandra Turney
Publisher: Unbound
Publication Date: January 24, 2019
Review Date: January 4, 2019

From the long blurb from Amazon:
“No one in this city has believed in me for two thousand years. I’m unknown and unloved. And I’m very, very ill.” He sighed, and the sound chilled her blood. “Give me your hand.”
Dionysus is re-born in a city which is never named, but which can only be Rome. He doesn’t understand how or why he’s there again – a pagan god in a city where he has no believers.
Weak and disorientated, he’s sleeping rough when he meets fifteen year old Grace; a chance encounter in the streets of the Jewish Ghetto leads to the beginnings of an unconventional relationship. It seems that the god needs Grace more than she needs him, but along with her best friends, Caroline and Sara, she overcomes skepticism and fear to become his worshipper.
This is the beginning of their secret lives – prayers, shrines and “sleepovers” that are actually bacchanals. Their families are suspicious and their schoolwork begins to suffer, but after the first bloodshed, they know that there’s no turning back.
As Dionysus feeds off the energy of his vulnerable new followers, reveling in the chaos and violence of the bacchanals, it becomes clear that he is using the girls as a means to an end. His memories of past incarnations inspire the eventual climax on the Aventine Hill – the night to end his exile.
A cross between The Bacchae and The Secret History, In Exile is a teenage Greek tragedy set in 20th century Rome. The novel explores the themes of identity, sexuality, friendship and belief, and is an original study of a powerless, melancholy god living in exile in the Eternal City. It’s also a book for anyone who has ever been enchanted by Rome, a city which, like Dionysus, belongs to the past, waiting uneasily on the threshold of the modern era.
——
I found this to be just an extraordinary book. I had no idea what I was getting into, and the book was way better than I expected or had imagined it would be.

The main characters Grace, Caroline and Sara are very well done. The story takes place in Rome, and I consider The Eternal City to be a character as well. The plot is tight and thrilling. The language in itself isn’t stunning, but the story is so imaginative that I don’t mind. 

This is also a piece of speculative fiction, in that the god Dionysus comes to life, and his resurrection drives the plot. 

Rome as a place and a character brings life to the story. It is quite a dark story. If you are interested in the Classics, in Rome, in Roman history, in the Greek and Roman gods, this will be a great read for you. These are particular interests of mine, so I found the book to be very satisfying. 

I highly, highly recommend this book. 5+ stars. Please consider giving this outstanding book a read. 

This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon. 

#InExile #NetGalley
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Turney deals with the absolutely rivering question "What would happen if Dionysus were re-born in a 20th century Rome where no one believed in him?" in a Tartt-esque novel that is well-written, fast-paced and engrossing; a read ideal to start the new year off.
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