Jennifer Saint's ARIADNE - An Exploration of the Role of Women in Greek Mythology
by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
Friends, this one, Jennifer Saint's Ariadne (Amazon | Bookshop.org), was another five-star read for me, and it's one I absolutely wanted to share on here. I think what I found so captivating about this one is the way that through exploration of several of the Greek myths, Jennifer Saint highlights the way that women in the stories pay for the faults of men, be they mortals or gods. Although this one does not spare the reader heartbreak, as the stories largely follow the inevitable outcomes of the original myths, there is solace in the sisterhood of women and the ways that they can carry on because of each other woven throughout the story centering on Ariadne's life. We first see things from her perspective as a young woman on Crete:
"What I did not know was that I had hit upon a truth of womanhood: However blameless the life we lead, the passions and the greed of men could bring us to ruin, and there was nothing we could do.
At an early age, Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos and half-sister to the Minotaur dwelling in the labyrinth constructed below Crete, discovers the part that she will play in the history of Crete, but she does not win the happily-ever-after ending promised to her by Theseus, the prince of Athens who convinces her to do her part in betraying Minos. Her decision results in her separation from her beloved sister Phaedra, and for a long time we as readers do not know what resulted for Phaedra.
I don't want to give any spoilers, so I'll just highlight a few things that I loved... this one is a gorgeous story that is sweeping in its scope. Saint covers both many years as they pass and also many of the original myths that are seamlessly woven into this rich tapestry that centers Ariadne and her love for her sister.
Although Ariadne's life is neither simple nor joyous, it is beautiful and her courage and determination to live her own truth and to do what's right no matter the cost is admirable. Ariadne's thoughts often drift toward Medusa, whose only crime truly was her own love of her hair, and she often compares Medusa's ultimate response to her punishment with that of Ariadne's own mother, Pasiphae, who is much more passive in her response after the birth of the Minotaur. As seen in the quote below, Ariadne makes her own decision about how she might handle the hand fate ultimately deals her, although I'd challenge readers to dive into this one to discover how Ariadne ultimately responds.
"I would be Medusa, if it came to it, I resolved. If the gods held me accountable one day for the sins of someone else, if they came for me to punish a man’s actions, I would not hide away like Pasiphae. I would wear that coronet of snakes, and the world would shrink from me instead."
I loved this one so much and will be thinking about it for a long time to come. I listened to this on audio, which was a good plan for me because it helped me keep momentum going. It was gorgeous but felt like a slow burn at times... but it was so worth the read!
Some parts are vivid, troublesome, and even heartbreaking, but I found it to ultimately be a story of feminism, courage, and resilience in the face of so many uncontrollable circumstances. Have you read this one? What other retellings do you recommend? Let us know what you thought in the comments or on social media!
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