Note from reviewer:
I rarely give a novel five stars, but I was tremendously impressed with the quality of storytelling in Sappho Sings, a fictionalized biography of the ancient Greek poet by Peggy Ullman Bell. Whether or not you are familiar with Sappho's timeless verse, this book brings history to life, and is a rollicking good romance as well!
Here Sappho Sings in her own words. Ancient phrases become the warp and weave of an intricate tapestry so delicately woven it becomes impossible to distinguish the imported threads from the weaver's own. Readers familiar with the myriad translations of the few fragmented lines of Sappho's work left available to us may recognize a word here or a conjunct there but, as one renowned expert in antiquities discovered, the author has herself become the voice of The Poetess to the extent that invented passages read like newly discovered wonders from the past.
Meticulously researched, expertly conceived, and beautifully written, Sappho Sings is a rich, poetic feast of a novel. Following the famous, and famously passionate, lady of Lesbos through her riches-to-rags-to-riches story, the novel chronicles Sappho's bitter disappointments, artistic and personal triumphs and, above all, her burning desire to be loved.
Sappho ~ or Psappha, as she would have been known in her native Aeolian dialect ~ first felt the arrow of Eros as a young woman, looking at the lithe, golden-haired dancer Atthis. Betrothed, she wondered if she could ever feel the same way about her intended, and fellow poet, Alkaios. A storm at sea separates Psappha and Alkaios, though this tragedy leads her to an unexpected marriage, a beloved daughter ... and the love of her life. Although she takes both female and male lovers, Psappha's soul mate is the lovely African warrior-woman Gongyla. When Atthis dances back into her life, Psappha is left with a heart-rending choice to make.
Sappho Sings is an excellent and bittersweet love story. Fans of Margaret Doody's "Aristotle Detective" series will appreciate Ullman Bell's blend of ancient Greek history, thrilling story, and biting wit. Ullman Bell skillfully weaves bits of the surviving fragments of Sappho's poetry into her narrative, too.
One warning, though: reading Sappho Sings will send you scurrying to the bookstore for Sappho's poems.