Summary and book reviews of Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Ariadne

by Jennifer Saint

Ariadne by Jennifer  Saint X
Ariadne by Jennifer  Saint
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  • First Published:
    May 2021, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 5, 2022, 320 pages

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Book Summary

A mesmerizing debut novel for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid's stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne's decision ensure her happy ending? And what of Phaedra, the beloved younger sister she leaves behind?

Hypnotic, propulsive, and utterly transporting, Jennifer Saint's Ariadne forges a new epic, outside the traditional narratives of heroism and glory that leave no room for women.

PART I

CHAPTER ONE

I am Ariadne, princess of Crete, though my story takes us a long way from the rocky shores of my home. My father, Minos, liked to tell me that story of how his unimpeachable moral conduct won him Megara, the subservience of Athens, and the chance to set a shining example of his impeccable judgment.

Stories told that, at the moment of her drowning, Scylla was transformed into a seabird. Far from giving her escape from her cruel fate, she was immediately set upon in an endless chase by the crimson-streaked eagle bent upon eternal vengeance. I could well believe the truth of it, for the gods did enjoy a prolonged spectacle of pain.

But when I thought of Scylla, I thought of the foolish and all-too-human girl, gasping for breath amid the froth of waves churning in the wake of my father's boat. I saw her weighed down in the tumultuous water not just by the iron chains in which my father had bound her but also by the terrible truth that she had sacrificed everything she knew...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel's epigraph is taken from Ovid's Heroides, in which Ariadne addresses Theseus: "You will stand before the crowds reciting the glorious death of the man-bull in those great winding passages cut from the rock. Be sure, then, that you also include me."What tone does this set for the story to come?
  2. In the opening pages, Ariadne tells "the story of a righteous man," her father, King Minos of Crete. Why do you think the author chose to begin there? How do we, over the course of the novel, see how problematic these "righteous men" are?
  3. As she grows up, Ariadne realizes that there is a darker side to the stories of gods and men she so often heard:"No longer was my world one of brave heroes; I was learning all too swiftly the women's ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about Ariadne.
You can see the full discussion here.


Ariadne realizes that there is a darker side to the stories of gods and men. Discuss some examples from the novel that bear this out. Is there still a tendency in our culture to valorize men while ignoring women's pain?
Ariadne realizes early that it is a man's world and even more a God's world and that their actions were done to make then feel better about themselves and have the power and control that they desire and too often being cruel was just ... - beverlyj

Ariadne reflects that the ritual gave shape to the Maenads grief and anger. Does this explanation make sense to you? Can you think of rituals or activities in our culture today that might fill a similar role? Does that justify them?
I definitely agree that the ritual with Dionysus gave shape to the Maenads grief and anger. Our rituals today also do that. Every funeral gives shape to our grief. Christian church services are the result of grief as well as exultation that ... - BuffaloGirl

Ariadne says of her sons, "They have gone on to lead quiet, unremarkable lives—the greatest gift that they could have been given." What does she mean?
I agree with much which has already been written. None of the men in the story would be considered role models with the possible exception of Daedalus. Private, quiet lives would be the best she could wish for her own sons. - patriciag

Compare and contrast the different examples of romantic love in this book. Which was the truest love story, if any?
Honestly, I saw no true romantic love in the book, except perhaps Ariadne's love for Dionysus before their relationship cracked, because of his actions, beyond repair. Ariadne's and Phaedra's initially and ... - BuffaloGirl

Daedalus seems to be one of the few admirable male characters in this novel. How is he different from the other men and gods we encounter? What role does he play in the story? Can we trust the sisters' positive account of him?
Daedalus was an honorable man trapped in a horrible situation because of his talent and through no fault of his own. He and Ariadne's and Phaedra's nurse provided some stability and adult attention that the girls would not otherwise have ... - BuffaloGirl

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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I was blown away by Ariadne. It presents itself so familiarly at first with all the traditional Greek myths and epic tropes. It then quickly subverts these old traditions to shine a bright light of condemnation on toxic masculinity and the misogyny that runs through all these accepted classical narratives (Jennifer H). Lately it seems many stories have been written offering retellings of the classics of Greek mythology. Ariadne is Jennifer Saint's contribution to this genre. Her story is filled with drama and suspense leading the reader into forbidding places. Her powerful writing kept me on the edge of my seat (Marcia C)...continued

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

BuzzFeed
Beautifully written and nuanced, Ariadne explores the bonds between women and their epic quest for agency in patriarchal Greek society.

The Independent (UK)
Saint's immersive novel thrusts the reader straight into the heart of Greek mythology with this wonderful reimagining of the story of Ariadne.

Kirkus Reviews
Ambitious but uninspiring.

Publishers Weekly
[E]nchanting...Saint expertly highlights how often the women of this world pay the price for the actions of the men around them. Lovers of mythology should snap this up.

Booklist
Complex—and bold…Fans of Madeline Miller's Circe will enjoy this faithful retelling that centers the often-forgotten women of Greek myth.

Author Blurb Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Tiger
What happens after the monster is defeated and the princess leaves with the hero? Jennifer Saint's Ariadne is a shimmering tapestry of two sisters bound by deceit and the shadows of family history. One marries a hero, the other a god. As their lives criss-cross through girlhood and womanhood, the secrets that their husbands keep become a monstrous backdrop to their relationship. With a fresh voice and keen insight, Saint adds flesh and bone to an ancient myth, drawing the reader into an uneasy world of ever-afters.

Reader Reviews

Susan L.

The Life of Ariadne
This retelling of Ariadne's life is stunning. The language pulled me in despite knowing how the story ends. Jennifer Saint brought Greek mythology to life. Her descriptions, characters and tragedies resonated with me. I felt for Ariadne, her sister, ...   Read More
James C. (Warren, OH)

A Mythical Debut
If this debut is any harbinger of books to come, Jennifer Saint may join the mythical ranks of the likes of Hilary Mantel and Susannah Clarke. This sprawling novel delights with characters that jump off the page, epic action, palace intrigue, and ...   Read More
Dan H

Greek mythology revisited
With lilting fairy tale language the author re introduces us to the folklore and mythology of Greece, which is only vaguely familiar to me. In juxtaposing the lives of the sisters, Ariadne and Phaedra, the author illuminates sibling love and rivalry ...   Read More
Peggy K. (Westminster, CO)

Meet the Women of the Myths
Jennifer Saint reimagines the myth of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, daughters of King Minos of Crete and half-sisters to the dreaded Minotaur. It is a thrilling and yet tender tale of two sisters longing for the same thing: a life free of their ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Ariadne in Greek Mythology

Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos In her novel Ariadne, Jennifer Saint retells events from the life of the mythological title figure. In Greek mythology, Ariadne is known for helping the hero Theseus slay the Minotaur — a beast who was the offspring of Ariadne's mother and a bull — and find his way out of the Labyrinth, the maze beneath her father's palace. In some versions of this story, she is said to have later caught the attention of Dionysus, the god of wine, who fell in love with her and married her.

Ariadne was the daughter of Pasiphae — herself daughter of the sun god Helios — and Minos, king of Crete. After the king's son, Androgeus, was killed during some games that took place in Athens, Minos took revenge by conquering the city. He ...

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