‘Being a God and loving mortals means nothing more than watching them die’ says Dionysus, the wine loving immortal who lives with Ariadne and seemingly set up a wonderful life amongst the vineyards, children and sun of the island of Naxos.
But if this book tells us nothing more, it is that women often played the lowest part in the power struggles of mortals and Gods amongst the ancient Greeks. Thankfully, this classically trained writer has done a fantastic job of exploring the characters of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra beyond the footnote that is held in that most famous of Greek myths – assisting Theseus in the killing of the Minotaur. It is a softer epic tale but none the less a sweeping family saga that lifts women to the Gods and then back to earth.
Betraying her family for the man she loves leads Ariadne to abandon her life in Crete and the book cleverly shows how family intrigues and jealousies abound. Once the immortal gods become intwined with such humans it seems it can only end in tragedy.
The description of the islands, seas and the warmth of the sun is contrasted with the fear from the depths as ever led by the gods such as Poseidon beneath or Helios and Hera above. Gently within this novel the author takes us by the hand from the maze of the Labyrinth under Knossos in Crete to the mountains and temples beyond Athens in a wonderful retelling of these classical stars. Making the figures more human may leave the scholars rebuffed but I sense it is better that we also see these figures of mystery for what they really are – immortal but forever tainted with human traits of violence, greed and power. No wonder leading male politicians read the classics….
There is a revival of much retelling of Greek myths from other writers and I think ‘Ariadne’ here creates a wonderful world into which to immerse ourselves as readers.
An excellent personal read as I learnt so much about the female characters surrounding those classic Greek males that usually dominate myths. The book could perhaps have been a little shorter as it seemed slightly to run out of steam but overall very enjoyable.
I think book groups with like the retelling although may want to look up the original Greek tales before immersing themselves into the book. Perfect for fans of ‘Circe’ and ‘The Silence of the Girls’
Reviewed by Philipa Coughlan
Published 29th April 2021 by Wildfire an imprint of Headline Publishing Group
Hardback ISBN 978-1-4722-7386-4