I’d been looking forward to reading Peter Fiennes’ new book A Thing of Beauty since its first mentions on social media, having read and reviewed its wonderful predecessor Footnotes (2019, Oneworld Publications) back in Issue 4 of The Pilgrim. I was hoping that I’d enjoy this book as much as the last, as I’m sure we all do when picking up the new book by an author whose work we’ve enjoyed.
And it is hope that really is central to A Thing of Beauty, hope not just the author’s future, nor just humankind’s future but a hope that finds its roots amid the ancient Greeks, the gods and the heroes who have not only been the fascination of historians, writers, cinema, philosophers and poets for the past numerous thousands of years, so I found it fitting that one of the main sources of inspiration within the book was Lord Byron, whose work and life embraced Greece with only a passion Byron could assume. His almost legendary exploits and untimely death at the age of 36 whilst supporting the country’s independence efforts only add to the life of one of the country’s greatest poets.
Although it is hope playing a central role, it is Pandora’s hope that is a central focus in A Thing of Beauty, and in an attempt to uncover this mystery the author travels to Greece, exploring the ancient sites, sampling the local culture, even asking a question of the Oracle of Delphi as to this most elusive of subjects.
However, A Thing of beauty is a book with more twists and turns than the Greek roads, as amid the golden age of Greek myths there exists a parallel between the excesses of that age and our current climes amid covid, mass extinctions, forest fires and a climate emergency, Fiennes shows a connection between the ancient myths of those who, like Icarus, fly too close to the sun.
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 and ‘Well worth a read’ (if you’ll pardon my little in-joke there?)
- A Thing of Beauty by Peter Fiennes is published by Oneworld Publications (£18.99). To order a copy go to oneworld-publications.com