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Imperial Purple Hardcover – November, 1988

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (T) (November 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395436354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395436356
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bradshaw ( Beekeeper's Daughter and Beacon at Alexandria ) creates a compelling fictional character, Demetrias. Wife and mother, well-born slave, she is the premier silk weaver working in fifth century Tyre, where life and commerce revolve around the precious purple dye that symbolizes the power of imperial Rome. When Demetrias is assigned to weave a cloak in the proscribed imperial color, but not of measurements to fit Emperor Theodosius II, she realizes that treachery is afoot, but refusal is not a slave's option. Her survival depends on devising a strategy to save her life and those of her family. The plot twists and turns through a diorama of actual events involving historical figures, notably Demetrias's encounter with the emperor's formidable sister, Pulcheria. Historical novels are stamped by both the writer and the backdrop of an era; Imperial Purple is doubly embossed with strength in a style that will appeal to readers of Robert Graves and Mary Renault. The author's historical afterword further illuminates the turbulent Byzantine era.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA Continuing her work on historical motifs, Bradshaw brings readers a third novel set in the Byzantine period. The fascinating theme throughout this tale is the manufacture of purple dye from murex shellfish and the weaving of sumptuous gownsthe purple cloth valued above gold and worn only by emperors. The slave Demetrias, a talented silk weaver, is instructed to weave a cloak of imperial purple. She and her husband, a murex fisherman, are drawn into a treacherous plot which gives drama to the lives of slaves, eunuchs, and rulers. Endpaper maps show Tyre and Constantinople in the 5th Century a.d. In a concluding statement, Bradshaw provides information about actual people and facts used and those invented for the enrichment of the tales. Jenni Elliott, Episcopal High School, Bellaire, Tex.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Wes Christensen ( on June 5, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Fans of historical novels ought not to miss this one. "Imperial Purple" is set in the early Christian era during the reign of Theodosius II (408-450)and with the author's "The Bearkeeper's Daughter" and "The Beacon at Alexandria" the novel examines why "Byzantine" has entered our language as an adjective. Well written and reasearched.(alternate selection of the History Book Club)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By gilly8 on December 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like Gillian Bradshaw's work very much. Like the best of the historical novelists (Sharon Kay Penman, Mary Renault, Robert Graves) she has done her research on the times and places where her characters are set. A reader does not feel these are 20th/21st century people wearing costumes as is too common in the worst of the historical fiction I've read.

Trying NOT to give away the plot, I will just say the main characters are a family of State Slaves (ie, belonging to the Emperor and working for the state) but surprisingly well off--almost middle class if that were not a current concept--but still, after all, slaves: a mother, father and child.

The time and place is 4th Century AD Constantinople, at the time when it had taken over the leadership of what was left of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, though splintered and under attack everywhere by Barbarian tribes (including, at this time, Attila the Hun)there was still great wealth and power at the top, with the majority of the people surviving fairly well at the bottom. The Emperor was a devout Christian, as the royal family had been for several generations, but there were still some pagans, tolerated still, within the Empire.

The plot unwinds believably, and the slave woman, an expert weaver in silk and using the world famous murex purple dye which belonged to and could be used only by the Emperor, is drawn into treachery against her will.

This all happens very quickly in the first chapter or so, and thus I feel it's OK to have mentioned. How things go from there keeps the novel a page turner, or so it was for me.
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