Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Alcestis Hardcover – February 1, 2010
Top 20 lists in Books
View the top 20 best sellers of all time, the most reviewed books of all time and some of our editors' favorite picks. Learn more
From Publishers Weekly
Beutner's debut tackles the Greek myth of Alcestis, who so loved her husband that she sacrificed herself to Hermes in his place. Beutner's retelling, set in ancient Greece, involves a more complex character: her Alcestis is a misfit who has deeply mourned the loss of her sister Hippothoe since childhood. Through Alcestis's eyes, Beutner provides a cagey look at men and gods, driving her narrative into the Underworld after Alcestis's husband, Admetus, proves so afraid of facing his own death that he demands a replacement. Alcestis goes instead, not for romance or martyrdom, but to find her dead sister. While hunting the land of the dead, Alcestis sheds the good girl identity she's begrudgingly worn her whole life and finds her fate tied to those of Persephone and Hades; eventually, she learns much about gods and men (especially from stubborn, simple Heracles). Beutner renders her multilayered heroine with beauty and delicacy, and concerns herself with no less than the intricacies of the soul; unfortunately, an abrupt ending sucks the wind out of Beutner's sails. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Beutner has elevated a relatively minor character in Greek mythology to a major player. Taking center stage in this debut novel is Alcestis, the fabled “good wife” who sacrificed herself in order to save her much loved husband, King Admetus. In this reworking of the classic legend, a decidedly more complex and restless Alcestis is provided with an intriguing backstory involving her childhood and the untimely death of her favorite sister, Hippothoe. When Admetus is too cowardly to face his own death, Alcestis, hopeful of reuniting with Hippothoe, agrees to take his place in the Underworld. It is here in death that Alcestis wrestles with the true nature of love and loss, as she falls under the seductive spell of Persephone. Perched precariously between two worlds, she finds she belongs to neither when Heracles, her would-be rescuer, declares his intention to deliver her back to her husband. Beutner spices up this classic tale with a decidedly Sapphic flavor. --Margaret Flanagan
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The only thing I wish the author had done differently was to really convince me that Alcestis fell madly in love with Persephone in just three days...(so much so that she didn't want to leave...) I wish the author could have elaborated more on this. Other than that, great book! I think someone should turn this into a play, it would be awesome!
When I cam across Alcestis, an entire novel centered around a Greek myth, I thought, "yahtzee!" And to be fair, for the first half of the book, the author delivers: mortals co-existing with gods, gods manipulating mortals' lives, etc. However, about halfway through the book things start to get really trippy. To be fair, any Greek myth is obviously laced with magical realism and imagination benders but in the case of Beutner's Alcestis, it is flat out bizarre. For about 100 pages Alcestis is just wandering around the underworld playing a sexual hide and go-seek with the gods and making non-sensical conversation with ghosts. It's like the author discovered hallucinogenic drugs in the midst of writing and decided the novel should double as a visions journal.
Perhaps my expectations for the book were a little exaggerated but when all was said and done Alcestis was less than divine.
(What follows contains spoilers)
The flaws are mostly to do with the nature of Alcestis's relationship with Persephone. The idea of pairing Admetus's relationship with the divine Apollo is brilliant, but in the end Alcestis becomes just like her husband, a helpless and willing pawn of the gods. Except that her stereotypical relationship with Persephone is really hard to believe. Persephone is a goddess, yet here she is a tragic seductress right out of a 1950s era Sapphic potboiler. This is combined with the hackneyed romantic trope of the girl in love with death. That this personification of death is a distaff one does not really elevate this above the sort of Victorian death worship exemplified by Alberto Casella Death takes a Holiday.
As an additional complaint, Pelopia, Alcestis's, dramatically unnecessary, brother in this novel, is in every other version of this story, her older sister. Which the feminine name would seem to indicate.
When death comes for her spouse, he refuses to go and demands a sacrificial replacement to satisfy Hermes. He is stunned when his spouse agrees to journey into the Underworld. As Alcestis begins her trek, the court praises her as a martyr of love. She knows there is some truth to the accolades, but it is not love for her husband; instead Alcestis seeks Hippothoe. In the Underworld, she meets and finds true love with Persephone even as that overly muscled moron Heracles has come to take her home; a place she does not want to return to as Pherae is a gilded cage and she has learned to fly having tasted love and freedom to move around in the Underworld.
This terrific retelling of the Greek mythos adds incredible depth to the heroine who finds the Underworld liberating. Unlike her legend written by men, Katharine Beutner's version adds the real motive for volunteering to die beyond the inane romantic notion and fills in a vivid telling of what happened in her three days in the Underworld. Although the ending feels rushed, fans will fully relish the story behind the legend.
Most recent customer reviews
Easy, thoughtful read
Will read more of this author
I've mentioned this before, but I'm a sucker for any book that has to do with Greek mythology.Read more