We’re somehow already 6 days into February and I’m not entirely sure where the time has gone! How was the month of January for you?
January was all about change for me. I finally left the safe and comfortable job I’d had for 4.5 years, 2 years of which I’d been working from the comfort of my own home – to a new job in a new company, 15 miles from home meaning a new commute, new people, new business! It’s always a challenge to get out of your comfort zone but I’m enjoying actually having a routine. I’m now up at 6 daily for breakfast and books before I get ready for my day – it feels pretty great!
Speaking of reading, I managed to read 5 books in January and I re-joined the Rare Birds Book Club just before the New Year (yay!) so my first review of 2022 is of this read, although I have so many books to share with you, I just have a lot of catching up to do! If you haven’t already checked out the Rare Birds Book Club then I suggest you do. Book subscriptions generally range from anywhere between £13-35 a month, and Rare Birds is at the lower end of that. They’ve recently revamped their website making the discussion board a lot more interesting with question prompts if you need them, and if you’re lucky enough to live in Edinburgh, they’ve also opened a store! It’s on my book shop ‘book it’ list for when I visit Edinburgh next Christmas (2023) and I can’t wait to meet them!
For now, let’s get on with the book review, right?
ARIADNE, BY JENNIFER SAINT
So, thanks to a lot of (gentle, friendly/mildly aggressive) pushing from my good mate Danielle a few summers ago, I finally borrowed her copy of Circe. I was absolutely determined and adamant that greek re-tellings were ‘so not my bag’, and I’d be super bored and confused. I was indeed super confused until about 30 pages into Circe but then something magical happened both within the pages and within me and I absolutely fell in love with it. Then Rare Birds sent me ‘A Thousand Ships’ by Natalie Haynes and I fell even deeper in love with Greek Retellings. At Christmas, I read The Song of Achilles (another Madeline Miller author of Circe) and I was like ‘ok guys, I’ve found my favourite sub-genre of fiction’. So when the first Rare Birds Book sounded like another greek re-telling I was clicking that book choice asap. My IG friend Charlotte and I were discussing what we thought it was going to be and she had it sussed – it was Ariadne. I’d seen the beautiful hardbacks in Waterstones and had read the interior jacket on that a few times, so was super excited to be receiving a copy.
Ok so bit of a synopsis. Who or what is/was Ariadne?
Ariadne is a teenager, the princess of Crete. She lives with her Queen and King parents, her brothers and her sisters, but in Ariadne we only hear of 3 siblings – Phaedra, Deucalion and Asterion, also known as the deadly Minotaur, the half man half bull born of a despicable cruel trick from a pissed off god. This half man half bull lived in a Labyrinth designed by skilled craftsman Daedalus and this beast dined on the flesh of the kids of Athens…nice (Y).
So in a bit of a historic ‘The Hunger games’ (pun wholly intended), every year the people of Athens would need to send ten kids over to be fed to the bull. One year, the prince of Athens, Theseus, turns up as dinner, and this bit of heart swooning is exactly what Ariadne and Phaedra need to decide that they might do something about this barbaric act.
Ok so this is my first problem with the way that this story has been publicised, of that of ‘feminism’.. yet the girls only spring into action when some hot dude might be torn to shreds? *Eyeroll*….
Anyway, the girls hatch a plan to save the day, but let’s just say that it all goes to shit (which isn’t really a spoiler, it’s a greek re-telling after all!).
The story thereafter is that of Ariadne, Dionysus the greek god, Phaedra the sister mentioned above, a desert island called Naxos, some goat sacrifices and a lot of narcissistic Gods and Kings.
Sound like your bag? Read on.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 3.5/5
For the first 120 pages (1/3 of the book), I was so disappointed and very underwhelmed. I felt like I was reading a very slowly written YA. I do enjoy YA books, but not when it comes to greek re-telling – this books need to be powerful and strong and quite frankly this was all a bit ‘oh he’s so hot’ and ‘oh what a silly girl’ for far too long for me.
Also, Ariadne was far too passive. Think back to what I said above, this is a feminist book apparently – but Ariadne had no ideas of her own for most of the book. She either went with the flow, shrugged and said ‘guess this is my life now’ or did what she was told. Phaedra on the other hand (a sister) – total powerhouse. I loved the character of Phaedra. Younger sister but headstrong, intelligent and a woman with a plan. I was really happy to see that later on in the story we begin to read from Phaedra’s perspective but lets just reflect on that this book is called Ariadne and this is her story…and I was more excited about her sister.
I’m sorry to say that the character of Ariadne is just not that interesting.
However, after the first 1/3, the story did start to ramp up and I’m pleased to say that I did get into the plot.
There is a portrayal of Dionysus (god of wine, fertility and prophecy) which was very unfamiliar to me. He befriends Ariadne after he discovers her on his island (Naxos) and is written as sweet, joyful and loving. I played Agave in a college production of The Bacchae and in that play, Dionysus drives her mad, leading her to tore apart her own son with her bare hands and to proudly display her son’s head on a stick, thinking it that of a lion. I therefore felt again like Dionysus was written a bit too sickly sweet in this novel compared to the emotions I’d had to convey once Agave had discovered the cruel trick! But, it was a welcomed change to be reading a ‘good’ god for once.
Overall, this book was a good work of fiction, but a lot of the plot is of Ariadne just having a nice time drinking wine with Dionysus. It’s not as action packed as other greek retellings. It has been said often that ‘lovers of Circe will love this book’ and I don’t quite agree. Madeline Miller imo is the absolute GOAT of recent Greek re-tellings and I don’t see it wise to compare the two as being similar.
I’d recommend that you do read this to discover it for yourself. There are some interesting characters to read and some absolutely stunning quotes and word craft, but if you read Circe before this and expect the same level of skill, fantasy and emotion and feminism, then I think you’d be as underwhelmed as I was. If you’ve not read a greek re-telling yet, I suggest you begin with this book to ease you in.
Finally, I’d like to share one of my favourite quotes with you (there’s so many to choose from but it was one that stuck out for me):
“I would not let a man who knew the value of nothing, make me doubt the value of myself.”
WASHED DOWN WITH:
I’ve been drinking a lot of these lovely little teabags recently. If you’ve not tried them then you can find them kicking about in Holland and Barretts (£2.79 for 12) or online. This is a really fresh, light cup of tea – caffeine free and said to ‘Skin Purify’. It contains red clover, nettle and dandelion which are all claimed to have antibacterial properties. This brand only uses the best part of the plant and of the best medicinal grade so its good quality stuff. I personally am fortunate to not have skin complaints, I just like to drink this to feel like I’m keeping myself in good health! However this tea does have amazing reviews from those suffering from Psoriasis and PMS breakouts – when drank daily. Now that sounds pricey when you consider that you’d need at least 3 boxes per month, but thats still cheaper than a cleanser from most brands! I’d definitely suggest trying this tea, even if its just for the flavour.
Questions to you, reader before you go. What is your favourite greek retelling and what is your favourite tea? Leave a comment below!
For now, I’m off to make a pot of tea and get our Sunday breakfast on the go. The sun has risen as I’ve written this blog and there is now a stunning light show of colours happening in a cloud by window, it’s like it has it’s own personal rainbow. Time to get out and explore the day.
Until the next Chapter,