Experimental and interesting. I’m not super familiar with Sappho but obviously know her impact on sapphic culture at large. A weird premise of a book but it worked.
More of a series of somewhat connected vignettes than a traditional narrative structure. Easy to read over time, but don't expect a firm resolution or diverse perspectives (very privileged and white).
The way this story was put together made it challenging for me to really follow what was happening and it made the book hard to enjoy, despite my high hopes for it. I think perhaps this author's style isn't for me or maybe simply this book isn't for me.
I listened to this on audiobook, as opposed to immersing myself on the page, and while I loved listening to it, the threads were so complex that I sometimes had trouble following (while traveling, while going to bed). I adored the subjects: sapphic love, art and artist communities, performance art, etc. I am going to get a copy of this book to re-read on the page because I think it deserves that kind of attention. Certainly recommended!
This was a very poignant and interest novel. I truly did enjoy my experience reading it. I am a huge fan of Sappho myself so I was really excited to dive right into this one and thankfully it did not disappoint
An unconventional and educational book that I struggled to stay engaged with. If I hadn't heard so much award buzz for this book, I probably wouldn't have slogged through. Shoutout to the audiobook for propelling me along. I've honestly been enjoying the reviews of the book more than the book, haha, people have such well-put and intellectual thoughts about it.
This is a deeply intellectual tale, one woven out of ancient and Italian history, imagination, and philosophies of Womanhood and queerness. The fiction in these pages reads as a reimagined history of real women, whose lives were lost to us because of the threat they posed (just by being) to European and Italian patriarchy. The tale unfolds as a kind of immortal telling of several lives, connected to a single soul. It is multigenerational and historical. There are several “Sapphos”.
As a historian, I deeply appreciated the embedded histories here: legal, social, cultural. There is a historiographical element to the book, an unfolding of a trajectory of thought as the book follows “Sappho” in her various guises and incarnations through time.
This is not an easy read. There is a required pre-existing understanding of Italian and European literature necessary to grasp its nuances. But, that said, the undercurrent of desire, rage, and feminist ambition is hard to miss. For that reason, After Sappho is worth both an initial and several re-reads.
I really wanted to love this book. Sapphic literature about important women in history, albeit white women exclusively, sounded like something I would be very interested in. Unfortunately I found the short, nonlinear stories confusing as they didn't intertwine to tell a story. I felt as though I was reading a textbook, and at the time that was not something I could make myself do.
Perhaps something that I will return to in the future, but as of right now it is a DNF.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher.
This was an interesting book. The stories of the women did make me sad and the format made their stories somewhat disjointed and hard to follow. I couldn't read it in one sitting as I intended.
I think it's a powerful book and an important one but the way it was formatted did make it more challenging for me to stay invested and follow along.
I felt disjointed from all the women highlighted in this book. All of the stories were much too short to feel connected or invested with any of their characters.
Hard to read but interesting enough. Took forever to get through, wish it was a bit more intriguing.
This book was okay, but it didn’t capture my attention the way I hoped it would. Although I enjoyed some of the plot points and characters, much of the novel just fell a bit flat for me. It had some promising ideas, but the overall style of the story really didn’t work for me. I had high hopes, given the title and beautiful cover art; it wasn’t a bad novel, but it also wasn’t as interesting as I wanted it to be, and it wouldn’t be the first book in this genre that I would recommend to others. Overall, this one just wasn’t for me.
"After Sappho" by Selby Wynn Schwartz is a giant feast of a book. At its heart, the novel is braided into three parts: fragments from the archaic Greek poet, Sappho; a lineage of creative Sapphic women from the 1800 and 1900s; and the history of women's rights in Italy. Told through a mosaic of fragmented but interconnected stories, these women attempt to break free from their ordinary lives in search of more. More freedom. More time. More connection. More ways to love. Writers, dancers, playwrights, actresses and painters — these women come alive on the page and invite the reader to see into their lives. It is as much a book you could curl up and get lost in on a rainy afternoon, as it is a treatise on genre-defying writing.
The language itself is beautiful, poetic and completely original, seemlessly blending history and fiction until the line was no longer discernible to me. There were entire pages that I underlined or read aloud to my spouse; even now looking back at my notes, I'm struck by what a gorgeous weaving of stories it is. I'm only docking this one star because I found it difficult to follow the connected narratives at times.
This book is for anyone who loves:
📖 Literary fiction
✖️ Cross-genre manuscripts
🗣️ Multiple POV
🎨 Art history, strong women and gender studies
🏆 Award-winning books (Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize)
🆕 New author debuts
Thank you to NetGalley and Liveright Publishing for allowing me the chance to read and provide an honest review of this book! I've posted this review on GoodReads and to my social platforms, as well as on Amazon and B&N listings.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book was very interesting and eye opening, but made me incredibly sad due to how women have been so oppressed in this world. The book was difficult to follow at some points as it does bounce around, but is still a very powerful and moving book.
Told in a series of cascading vignettes, featuring a multitude of voices, After Sappho reimagines the lives of a brilliant group of feminists, sapphists, artists and writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as they battle for liberation, justice and control over their own lives.
Although I had high hopes for this one the time period and I just didn't jive. It will likely be perfect for other readers.
I am grateful to W. W. Norton & Company, Liveright for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review.
I think that short of a few critiques, this book delivers exactly as advertised. We follow multiple women from different walks of life, different experiences, sexualities, and nationalities. We see how these women worked to exist as themselves in spite of the structures and expectations of the societies and times in which they lived.
I enjoyed the structure of this book, which is unsurprising because I do love stories that are told in vignettes. Jumping from story to story and from woman to woman was very reminiscent of Girl, Woman, Other which I also enjoyed. However, here comes the critique. Even with the collection of women selected for the story being women from different societies and statuses, there was still a marked lack of diversity where race was concerned. I found this baffling because the author goes into the inspirations for this book in the afterword and mentions many women of color and their works and writings that inspired her book. I am confused as to why it was seen as important to reference these women as inspirations for your thoughts when constructing this novel, yet it did not seem important for you to include any of them (or women like them) in the actual body of the work. Instead, she goes on to speak about the same historical figures that are always talked about. I thought that very strange, and for that reason, this book did not have the impact that I was hoping it would.
I do think this book was well written. I also think it was structurally very interesting, engaging, and I really enjoyed it overall. I would recommend this to fans of literary fiction who are interested in reading more books about women and women's issues. However, I do think this book should be part of a larger reading project and not used as the sole source for any sort of education on feminist themes etc.
After Sappho creates a narrative weaving the stories of sapphic and queer feminists of history in a way that is both informative and engaging. I loved this read and highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in queer history, especially those who may prefer reading fiction.
Thank you Netgalley for providing a digital ARC.
This was an interesting book. The stories of these real life women are inspiring and fascinating. My only issue was that it gets too in the weeds with the french names and titles. Unless you speak french, this is just a going to be a jumble of letters you gloss over to get to the rest of the story.
I can't say enough about this book! I bought the hard copy the second it was released in January even though I'd finished the ARC. Stunning, stunning book.
I requested After Sappho as background reading for a review feature we planned. Our reviewer gave the book 4-stars saying:
For the women in Schwartz's debut novel, Sappho is the flame that kindles their creativity, the beacon that guides them, igniting their love and passion, turning their eyes toward the sea, and lighting the way into new, uncharted waters. The "we" used by the chorus of narrators becomes the "we" of all women who break new ground, transgress societal boundaries, love other women, and emulate Sappho by leaving lasting artistic legacies of their own.
See full review in link