I am a proud member of the Better World Books, Blackwell’s and Bookshop.org affiliate networks – ethical and independent online bookshops. Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through these links will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you – plus I only link to books I’ve read, reviewed and am sure you’ll enjoy!
Genre Literary, Retelling
Other Formats Available Paperback, ebook, audiobook
Publication Date March 2021
Length 389 pages
Content Warnings Rape and sexual assault, suicide, murder, violence, enslavement, birth descriptions, animal sacrifice
What It’s About
Everyone knows the heroic story of Theseus in the labyrinth, and how Ariadne helped him to defeat the terrifying Minotaur. Yet with this act of bravery, a betrayal of her tyrannous royal father, Ariadne’s story is only beginning. The epic tales of ancient poets rarely pause to consider her sacrifice, or what it meant to leave behind her Cretan home and family.
Lost in a new kind of labyrinth, Ariadne must quickly learn what it means to be a woman, and a mortal, in a world ruled over by men and gods.
I don’t think I will ever get bored of ancient Greek mythology retellings! Although I knew Ariadne’s role in the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, her story beyond this connection was completely new to me. Saint’s novel is a feminist correction to the overshadowing of mythical women, focussing on Ariadne and her sister Phaedra.
“No longer was my world one of brave heroes; I was learning all too swiftly the women’s pain that throbbed unspoken through the tales of their feats.”~ Jennifer Saint, ‘Ariadne’
I enjoyed both Ariadne’s and Phaedra’s points of view equally. The relationship and interactions between the sisters really lent nuance to each of their characters. In fact, the book is full of dramatic character arcs – it’s impossible to predict how different characters will react, grow, and develop as they navigate unfamiliar waters.
Every page of the book is rich with luscious descriptions and gilded language. For my own taste, though, I found these descriptions a little excessive and became satiated after a while.
Saint brings the darkness of ancient myths into the foreground, exploring the violence of the original narratives and blurring the divide between heroes and monsters. There were many grotesque and shocking moments that made me want to squeeze my eyes shut!
Diversity and Representation
Like all my favourite retellings, Ariadne has strong feminist themes. I especially liked the complex and ambivalent compromises that the women characters had to make in order to gain small steps towards power, freedom, and sexual expression.
- Gender and sexuality
Beyond the Book
Through Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, the author presents two different experiences of motherhood. The often unspoken pain of motherhood seems popular to explore currently, with books such as The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan and films such as Netflix’s The Lost Daughter. I wonder why this theme seems to have taken off at our particular cultural moment?
If you’re reading Ariadne as a book club pick or just looking to ponder the story in a little more depth, these questions should help get you started:
1. Have you read any other mythology retellings? If so, how does Ariadne compare?
2. The novel is narrated from two different perspectives – Ariadne and her sister Phaedra. If you could add one more point of view, which character would you choose?
3. Are there moments of this ancient story that you found particularly resonant to the present day?
“I would not let a man who knew the value of nothing make me doubt the value of myself.”~ Jennifer Saint, ‘Ariadne’
You want to luxuriate in a rich and visceral mythology retelling.
Alternatively, support independent bookshops and ethical retailers with these links:
- Paperback (New)
- Free Delivery!
- Hardback (Used Very Good)
- Free Delivery!
- Paperback (New)
- Support independent bookshops!
Have you read Ariadne and if so, what did you think? What are your favourite mythical retellings? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!