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Imperial Purple

by Gillian Bradshaw


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Imperial Purple

by Gillian Bradshaw

Review posted July 19, 2013.
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1988. 324 pages.
Starred Review

Imperial Purple is the first Gillian Bradshaw book I ever read, a gift from my sister Becky many, many years ago. The book is wonderful, and is the one that started me on one of my favorite authors.

Gillian Bradshaw is fabulous at Historical Fiction. She studied classics at Cambridge and must have done vast amounts of research. Imperial Purple is set in the fifth century A.D. Demetrias is a skilled weaver in Tyre, and her husband Symeon is a purple-fisher. There in Tyre they make purple cloth that only royalty can wear.

And then Demetrias is called to the procurator and given an assignment for a purple cloak with two tapestry panels. But it is specified to be the wrong length for the emperor. And she is told to do it in complete secrecy. She knows someone is plotting treason. But what can she do about it? She is a slave of the state, and so is her husband. The prefect is clearly in on the plot. If anyone in power finds out, they won't hesitate to torture Demetrias to find out what she knows.

Demetrias plans to finish as quickly as possible and get rid of the thing. Her husband Symeon wants to find someone powerful to entrust with the secret. But when their fears are realized, they end up thrust on their own resources.

Woven into the political intrigue and the fascinating historical details is a beautiful love story between a husband and a wife. They both face a long journey and great danger, and you will delight in the twists and turns of the tale. I love the way Gillian Bradshaw's Author's Note at the end explains that these events actually could have taken place. Not much is known about the time, but the main historical figures mentioned all existed and went in and out of power as in the story.

I think this is about the third time I've read Imperial Purple, and I fondly hope it won't be the last.