THE LAUGHTER OF APHRODITE by Peter Green

THE LAUGHTER OF APHRODITE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sappho was a pre-Christian voluptuary and at various points in this novel of her life, the author underlines the fact that ancient Greek morality cannot be judged by post-Christian standards. It is easy to agree to that, but harder to swallow than hemlock is the fictional Freudian details he has supplied in a family background guaranteed to make her the very first among Lesbians (upper or lower case). These include the cold mother, the weak father, the attempted rape, the need for affection conflicting with physical fear and an implacable ego. And, if the post-Freudian insights that made up her milieu's table talk were the conversational coin of Lesbos, what on earth took Sigmund and Co. so long to get around to it all? Suspending disbelief becomes a conscious act as, from the scraps of recorded history, the author tries to write Sappho's autobiography. It is not as hard to hear him speak in the voice of the bi-sexual poet as it was to hear Hersey as a nubile girl in White Lotus because Green writes so much better (remember his Kenneth Grahame, 1959- World). Like so many historical novels, this loses a lot because you know how it's going to end. The stagily intellectual content of much of the dialogue contrasts oddly with Sappho's memory of soapy murmurings to the women or men in her life or bed (sterile scenes), but the minutiae of the society of the time pulls at the interest. Reader curiosity rather than empathy may keep these pages turning.

Publisher: Doubleday