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Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint

10 September 2021

Sarah Meyrick reviews a retelling of the trials that Ariadne faced

GREEK mythology has a number of terrifying monsters, and none more so than the horrible Minotaur. Half-human, half-bull, the Minotaur lived in an underground labyrinth, terrorising everyone in earshot. Every year, the Athenians were forced to send 14 young men and women as a human sacrifice.

Until, that is, the year when the Athenian party included the Prince Theseus, who killed the Minotaur with the help of the Princess Ariadne. Her reward for betraying her father, King Minos? Theseus abandoned her on the island of Naxos on the way back to Athens and told everyone she’d died. Luckily for Ariadne, she caught the eye of the god Dionysus, who fell in love with her — although the god of wine was never going to make the most reliable of husbands.

Meanwhile, back on Crete, King Minos was succeeded by his son, who made peace with Theseus, giving him Ariadne’s younger sister Phaedra in marriage as part of the deal, only for Phaedra to fall in love with Theseus’s stepson Hippolytus. Rich pickings for any storyteller: the supporting cast includes Icarus, who flew too close to the sun; Perseus, who killed the Gorgon Medusa, who turned men to stone; and Medea, who murdered her own children in revenge for their father’s taking a new wife.

Novels retelling the Greek myths have proved popular in recent times: Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe, Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, and Natalie Haynes’s A Thousand Ships all spring to mind. Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne is described as “a feminist literary retelling” of the ancient Greek myth. Sadly, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. The writing is somewhat stilted, and the pace is uneven. A good enough read for lovers of Greek myth, but a long way short of Miller, Barker, or Haynes.

Sarah Meyrick is a freelance writer and novelist.


Jennifer Saint
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