Monday, January 9, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz

I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz is a new literary novel that presents to the reader intertwining fragments of the lives of numerous queer feminists from the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. The lives are centered in Europe (although a few noted American expats are included.) They are writers, painters, singers, dances, actresses – in short they are artists and intellectuals united by a desire to follow the footsteps of the ancient Greek poet, Sappho.

The prose is lush and the women fascinating. The story is presented in a vaguely chronological fashion, but world events are shown only in how they impact the lives of women – the collective lives of women. It’s a brutal look at how women have been treated over the ages and how they have striven to rise above their circumstances and the rules imposed upon them by men. Individual men are essentially excised from this story, demonstrating how superfluous they were. It is a celebration of women.

It is not an easy book to read. The various women swim in and out of the narrative, presented by a “we” narrator who is as nebulous as the individual women. There is no cohesive plot. Nevertheless, the beauty of the story is seen when these fragments are taken as a whole.

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