Katharine Beutner: Alcestis

Alcestis - Katharine Beutner

I can't remember where I first heard about this book (probably a Toastie), but I was intrigued and ordered a copy. Now I am so happy to have read this beautiful novel.


I especially liked how Buetner imagines Alcestis's perception of the gods, and how Alcestis comes to understand how inhuman they really are. Especially compelling was her one glimpse into how they see each other's form. Neither do the gods have human emotions, and or human effects. So despite her ambivalence, Alcestis finds she cannot physically resist Persephone's summoning. It's not that she loves Persephone, it's that no human can resist a god. Because of this, her relationship with Persephone is not sweet or romantic, but alien and otherworldly. And it takes place in the underworld, which is also alien.


Ultimately, Alcestis does break away from Persephone, when she is "rescued" by Heracles and returned to her husband in the world of the living. This final change of home makes us realize that Alcestis's lack of place has grown. At the beginning, she was aware that she was only a temporary resident in someone else's house (first her father's, then her husband's). Upon returning from the underworld, she finds that the entire living world no longer feels like a true home for her.


I loved reading Alcestis's story. I would definitely look for more from this author. Recommended.