Plot: A collection of letters written by famous women of myth and legend to their unfaithful or absent lovers. The last three are paired letters between the heroine and her lover.
I read the Loeb Classical Library translation by Grant Showerman, revised by GP Goold (ISBN 0674990455)
My thoughts: What makes for fairly turgid reading as each famous heroine is seen suffering from the misdeeds or infidelity of their husbands or lovers left me with the impression (i) how common a theme this was in Greek and Roman literature, (ii) how powerless even those women with magic, beauty or royal connection were, with suicide usually the only remaining option, and (iii) how the plight of these women was not only a recurrent theme but also did not go unnoticed by playwrights and poets.
Still fairly depressing to read tragedy after tragedy in one volume.
“tears, too, have none the less the weight of words” (III, Briseis to Achilles)
“Suffer her not to tear my hair before your eyes, while you lightly say of me : “She, too, once was mine.” (III, Briseis to Achilles)
Jason of Argonaut fame offends twice, deserting Hypsipyle (VI) for Medea, and in her turn Medea (XII) for Glauce. Euripides’ play Medea shows in startling horror how badly that went, and even Hypsipyle’s quote below implies Medea was not a woman to scorn
“But as for your mistress – with my own hand I would have dashed my face with her blood … I would have been Medea to Medea!” (VI, Hypsipyle to Jason)
Digressions/diversions: Several of the couples I had forgotten or not heard the original story, so it was advantageous to do a quick Google to understand the background story alluded to by each heroine before reading their letters.
Personal rating: 4/10
The reads in between:
- Redshirts by John Scalzi, a must-read for Trek fans with a sense of humour
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, a whodunnit classic by the Dame, and listed in Martin Edwards’ Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books
- Matilda by Roald Dahl – the books read by Matilda from the public library would make an excellent one-per-month reading challenge at some point
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton – a bit disappointing but still worthwhile and quirky in places
Next : Books VI-X of Livy’s History of Rome