Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Review: The Laughter of Aphrodite: A Novel about Sappho of Lesbos

Continuing my way through historical novels set in Ancient Greece, I've now left the Bronze Age and am now reading novels focusing on great figures of Classical literature, this month focusing on Sappho of Lesbos, considered one of the nine great lyric poets of the ancient world.

Although today most of her work is lost, with what little there is surviving in pieces, Peter Green has done a fairly fascinating job with his novel, in that her work is represented as thoughts and descriptions she makes throughout.

The Laughter of Aphrodite
is narrated by the poet herself at about age fifty, looking back over her life and describing her childhood on the isle of Lesbos followed by her exile to Sicily and involvement in relationships, marriage, and motherhood.

At this point I've now read seven of these novels and am finding my knowledge of the Ancient Greek world is not nearly as good as I thought it was - the stories are still quite compelling, but as compared to Mary Renault's novels about Theseus, wherein I knew most of the story beats going in, I'm finding that the more based in history these novels get, the more I'm left focusing on the characters.

Peter Green has done a masterful job with a historical figure I knew virtually nothing about - I can't argue against any potential inaccuracies, but as far as compelling storytelling goes, he definitely drew me into the work and has me interested in reading more.

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