This beautifully written retelling of the Greek Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur gives voice to the women often forgotten in Greek myths. The story of Ariadne reminds us of the ambition, power, and individuality these women had but were frequently destroyed by men’s greed or ego.
“It was the woman, always the women, be they helpless serving girls or princesses, who paid the price. Cursed to roam the land without refuge, transformed into a shambling bear or lowing cow, or burned to ashes by the vengeful white-armed goddess.”
Those who do not know Ariadne’s story, she was a Crete princess, daughter of the Minos, sister to the Minotaur. Through her help, the Greek’ hero’ Theseus defeated the Minotaur and freed his city of Athens from Minos rule. Without Ariadne’s betrayal to her city, Theseus would have perished under the Minotaur — a fact often forgotten. She fled her home of Cretes with the dreams of the freedom that will come of becoming Theseus’ wife; she is soon left behind on an island to later become the wife of Dionysus.
This mesmerizing tale is dear to me because often memorable or famous women are those who would stand head-to-head with mean, aggressively demanding their equality and their place at the table. Soft women who are often less aggressive in the attempts to receive recognition and take charge of their own destiny and desires are usually forgotten or made a footnote in a man’s story. Ariadne is a soft woman whose story is just as valuable as those women who kick ass. Women who wish to become mothers and wives are just as powerful and do not want them.
Jennifer Saint’s debut explores the myriad ways women were subject to and how their lives were at the mercy of gods and men. And even with all odds stacked against them, women like Ariadne and her sister, Phaedra, find small ways to make it theirs. The novel explores what it means to be female, touching many elements that are still relevant today: forbidden love, unfaithful spouses, domestic joy, maternal bliss, postpartum depression, finding happiness where you can, unhappy marriages, wanting to be a mother.
Even though I knew Ariadne’s story before I read this excellent retelling, Saint still left me shocked by the betrayal and pain these leading ladies had to endure.
It is tough to find a book that still catches me off guard when it comes to a story I know well. The life Saint gave to Ariadne and Phaedra blew me away. It is easy to forget women in a man’s story are just as complex (and sometimes even more so) as the famous Greek hero.
The prose was stunning. It was artistry that made the writing so easy to become immersed in— almost as if I was watching a film. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this retelling. I know some people might find the prose a bit dense or long, but that’s the sort of thing I love and live for.
Ariadne is perfect for fans of Circe, A Song of Achilles and general greek mythology.
Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing a review copy of this novel in exchange for a review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publication Date: 30 March 2021
RRP: $32.99 AUD
Personal Rating: 5/5