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Sappho's Leap

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  906 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
Sappho's Leap is a journey back 2,600 years to inhabit the mind of the greatest love poet the world has ever known. At the age of fourteen, Sappho is seduced by the beautiful poet Alcaeus, plots with him to overthrow the dictator of their island, and is caught and married off to a repellent older man in hopes that matrimony will keep her out of trouble. Instead, it starts ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 17th 2004 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2003)
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Jul 25, 2012 Ashley rated it liked it
Wow. I don't quite know what to say about this book. I am very conflicted because although I found the book pretty terrible in execution, the content and imagery was mesmerizing and I found myself finishing the book while shaking my head in disbelief the entire time. The dialogue was odd and unnatural. There were times where I chuckled to myself imagining the characters actually speaking those words aloud to each other. There was also a lot of repitition and reiteration throughout the book. Coul ...more
Andrew Reeves
Jun 25, 2011 Andrew Reeves rated it it was amazing
I have always been a fan of Greek mythology. Although I'd never heard of Sappho until discovering this novel more than a year ago, I've come to appreciate the attention Jong gives to Sappho's life and poetry.

The novel moves quickly and is just what I've come to expect from this author's writing. The prose is witty, sensual and retrospective as the protagonist laments the taking of her daughter while longing for the embrace of her lover. Imagery describing the Greek isle of Lesbos and other local
Apr 03, 2016 Bandit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long ago and far away when something Lesbian meant it was from the isle of Lesbos there lived a famed poet and songstress Sappho. So scant are the actual facts about her life, it's an author's ideal playpen. Though one may muse on just how much of the author herself gets imprinted on these biointerpretations. Jong, herself a poet of some renown (so much so that she included a sizeble addition of her own Sappho style poems into the book), and now stranger to writing on sexuality, women's paths, e ...more
This is a hard one to review. I found Sappho's Leap to be poorly executed. The characters and their actions make no sense. The dialogue is horribly stilted. The plot is meandering - maybe picaresque would be a kinder word. In fact, the whole thing feels rather like a comedy, one of those old-fashioned comedies from another literary era where culture has changed too much for you to appreciate the jokes even though you know they're supposed to be funny. And yet, I kind of grew to like it. I enjoye ...more
Melissa Jackson
Oct 12, 2009 Melissa Jackson rated it did not like it
Upon discussion with friends and through perusing way more reader reviews on this website than I have time for, it has been decided that Erica Jong is a genius-- but only her early years.

Erica Jong's ability to wield words like a sword is incredible. Her poetry is magnificent (my next tattoo will most likely be one of her verses, if that says anything) and I adore her. But I realized that most of my experience with her (prior to Sappho's Leap) was all her early work. Something happened to her wr
Jan 07, 2010 Alicia rated it did not like it
Ohmygod. And here's the 2nd book I've given up on within 20 pages: in the last 5 years, that's happened only twice - and both in this week. Jong is a wildly uneven writer. Her heyday was the late-70s and she was truly a groundbreaking, explicit - & unusually accessible - literary novelist. Now, not so much. The very promising prologue of Sappho as an old woman, standing upon the cliffs reviewing her life in preparation for hurling herself into the sea, gave me false hope that died with the 1 ...more
Apr 25, 2009 Jessica rated it liked it
Parts of this are very good, but I have to confess that Jong lost me when the story turns fantastical - it was going along nicely with the straightforward historical with light mythological overtones, so the turnoff to head into the underworld is a sharp one. I'm fine with either one, the other, or both interwoven smoothly; slapping the concepts together like a poorly made layer cake is less fine.
I associate the cover picture with Tanith Lee's Vivia.
Heather Truett
Sep 30, 2013 Heather Truett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review, kindle
If you've heard me refer to a certain popular book as 50 Shades of Slutty, you may think me a prude.

You would be wrong.

I don't loathe erotica. I loathe badly written porn, sure, but not all erotica counts as such. A book can contain beautiful, even graphic, descriptions of sex and sexuality without crossing over the line to smut. A writer must learn the difference.

For instance, I wouldn't at all mind my husband watching Orange is the New Black. It is a great show. Yeah, there's some graphic fema
Oct 10, 2013 Margaret rated it liked it
In this book, Erica Jong pays homage to the first great female poet of our Western culture and, although there are not many solid facts concerning Sapphos life, the author weaves a curious tale, which seems to find inspiration in the epic tales of the Greek.

Since an early age, Sappho knows that her life purpose is to sing the glory of Aphrodite. Completely fascinated with the works (and charm) of the poet Alcaeus, she finds herself in the middle of a rebellion to overthrow the dictator of her ho
Grady Ormsby
May 10, 2014 Grady Ormsby rated it it was amazing
I am so old that when I was in college, UNC-CH had a Classics Department (They still do.) and people even chose Classics as a major! As a sophomore I took “Latin Literature in Translation” and “Greek Literature in Translation.” Both classes were taught by Dr. Kenneth J. Reckford, a renowned scholar and one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had. Among others we read Homer, Pindar, Herodotus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Ovid, Cicero, Virgil, and Catullus. For a naïve boy from ...more
Rowland Bismark
2,600 years ago on the island of Lesbos in the great age when trade blossomed in the eastern Mediterranean there lived an actual woman who's songs survive to this day - on scraps of parchment and in the legends passed on through the ages. Sappho was known throughout this ancient world and her songs say much about the unchanging nature of love and lust, of power and wisdom. Jong has researched her character well and has woven a story of her life that is compelling and informative. How this woman ...more
Feb 09, 2009 Alberteinsteinmaloney rated it really liked it
Erica Jong's novel retains just enough ancient history and philosophy to prevent it from teetering into either florid romance novel or purely pornographic fluff. Although thoroughly enjoyable, the novel falls short of greatness on several levels, most disturbingly so when the tone morphs out of Sappho's own and becomes disturbingly modernistic.

That said, there were many strengths to the novel and Sappho herself is fabulously imagined. Far from historical fiction, the novel was wonderfully autobi
Amanda Steinhoff
While I loved the idea of a fictionalization of the life of Sappho, as well as the world of Greek mythology in general, I found the actual writing sort of stilted. I wasn't sure if this was supposed to convey the "ancient" way of speaking, but it just seemed a little forced to me. And while I appreciated the attempt to include Sappho's attitude towards love, sex, bisexuality, the unnatural formality of discussion made it come across as uncomfortable instead of passionate or emotionally moving.
Aug 26, 2015 Sarah rated it it was ok
The first half feels like the more fanciful, mythic side of Herodotus - cosmopolitan, extravagant - but in the second half (after Sappho's trip to the Land of the Dead) it just gets silly. Also I couldn't help thinking that Sappho's relationships with men tended to be more romantic and those with women more purely sexual, and I'm not sure what to make of that. But as trashy beach reads go, you could do so much worse. Plus I find it impossible to completely dislike any book which has Alcaeus of M ...more
Kate Birgel
Dec 07, 2009 Kate Birgel rated it really liked it
This book is well written, but I do not recommend it to those who are not prone to a book filled with....numerous....romantic interludes. The story is that of poet Sappho who is seduced by poet Alcaeus. All sorts of plots, overthrows, love trysts emerge, taking them both through Delphi to Egypt to the Amazon, and naturally to Hades. Jong translates many of Sappho's poems, and this was the hook for me.
Mar 11, 2017 Chelsi rated it it was ok
The prose was lyrical and lovely, but I would have liked more visual descriptions. I was also disappointed by Sappho's reckless behaviour for most of the beginning novel and couldn't bring myself to care about her.
Apr 09, 2013 Lia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
VI sec a. C., Leucade. Il suo piedino calzato d'un sandalo d'oro si inerpica su, su, sempre più su. La bella cantrice di Afrodite ha timore dell’autunno della vita. Sale in fretta la scogliera mentre il cuore le pulsa forte in gola e rivede la sua bellezza e la sua giovinezza a Lesbo, l'ispirazione e le sue passioni, e calpesta il sogno dell’amore di Alceo. È mossa da un unico istinto: gettarsi dalla rupe. Ma le sue ginocchia ora tremano. In cima alla scogliera dell'isola, l'aria si fa più raref ...more
First time reading a Erica Jong book so I came in with no real expectations other than a good storyline with likeable characters. For the most part, this story fulfills my basic requirement although the likeability of the characters is somewhat debatable.

One of the challenges about Sappho, the person, is that there is so little personal information about her. This fact enables writers like Jong to embellish the story. Hence, I enjoyed Jong's narrative approach of casting Sappho as a female versi
Dec 10, 2015 Winston rated it it was ok
Telling the story of Sappho is no easy task. And Erica Jong is bold enough to try bringing to life a character whose life history knows very little about. This is an imagined version of the poetess whose only surviving material is a handful of poems which have caused so much academic discussion. So trying to reconstruct a coherent version of her biography is, to say the least, very daring. And to that, add fantastic creatures, the relationship between gods and humans, and the fact that Sappho is ...more
Katherine Basto
Nov 26, 2016 Katherine Basto rated it really liked it
I adore Erica Jong and consider her a beautifully poetic writer. My opinion of her has not changed upon reading,"Sappho's Leap." With that said, this was an uneven novel that often had distractions that took me out of the plot.
For example, although I endured all the extractions, the parallel conversations with Zeus and Aphrodite didn't work after awhile. I started skipping over these parts. The first half of the novel was much stronger---plot driven with very interesting characters. Her mother a
Amelia Gremelspacher
Sappho's enduring reputation is her love of women; even imparting her name to the Sapphic love of lesbian erotica. She is remembered for her songs of wisdom and passion, so a novel in autobiographical format bears a solemn burden. Jong has honored the myth of Sappho but has cast her into the human form with foibles and humor. Sappho is the subject of a bet between Aphrodite, who has granted her the magic of her gift of song, and Zeus, who has bet she will throw the gift away for love.

The conund
Nov 12, 2008 Yarrow rated it liked it
Just finished this. It was almost-brilliant, falling just short of brilliance across the board. Insufficient supporting character development, and patchy, insufficient plotting (in particular the poorly-realized nonsense with the Amazons and centaurs, which had so much unrealized potential). Too hasty a resolution of the period on the unnamed island. Too many loose ends--the Pharoah in particular, and how Alcaus and Praxinoa came to be in the right boat at the right time at the end there. She sp ...more
Catherine  (LBPQBooks)
Fascinating setting, but I wish there had been more focus on Sappho's lady lovers, since that's what she's known for.
Maria Ana
Jan 22, 2015 Maria Ana rated it it was amazing
I always love to find novels about Ancient Greece figures. This time i found Sappho, which became an inspiration to me. In the book it's clearer the devotion of Sappho to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and passion.
She was born in the island of Lesbos, which Sappho defends that love among men or women is a beautiful thing. The book is related to Sappho's passion for Alceus,and her life looking for him after both of them having been exiled from the island of Lesbos. I love the fact that in the boo
Dec 22, 2016 Liana rated it really liked it
2,600 years ago on the isle of Lesbos lived the greatest love poet the world has ever known; wild, fierce, loveable Sappho, whose name and work has become a symbol for sapphic women all over the world. Jong managed to pull off something truly magical, a mesmerizing combination of history and fiction, literature and poetry. The ancient Greece setting, the poetic writing, the intensity of love, all reminded me of 'The Song of Achilles', one of modern literature's greatest masterpieces. 'Sappho's l ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was so excited for this book. In the end I was a little disappointed. It wasn't what I thought but I've never researched Sappho so I don't know her story. Jong is obviously passionate about her but I would like to imagine Sappho differently. I think Jong tried to create a scholarly version of Sappho reflective of the information she researched about her life. My disappointment is due only to the Sappho of my imagination.
I think Jong did a decent job writing in a historical style so I think som
Louise Armstrong
Jan 12, 2014 Louise Armstrong rated it did not like it
Malibu Sappho.

To be fair, I was on holiday, reading in poor light, so maybe I missed something, but after a few pages of me, me, me, me I got tired of spending time with such a selfish drama queen & began reading faster and faster, wondering if the character's shallowness was part of the plot & she'd get her comeuppance, but no, she just wandered about the fantasy talking about me, me, me.


The fantasy didn't make sense: if anything can happen, in any order, not linking into a plot,
Feb 07, 2010 sheena rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-japan
oh shit. good reads (or i) just deleted my entire crap review.

can i be bothered to rewrite?

this book isn't as bad as other reviewers are saying. no, it won't save your life. but it does offer a cute glimpse at the life of an icon, and given that so little is known about sappho, i'm impressed with jong's tale.

we see sappho grow up and hear some humorous dialogue between zeus and aphrodite. it's worth the couple of hours it will take you to read, and offers a pleasant, although not life-alteri
Izabela Dziugieł
Dec 13, 2015 Izabela Dziugieł rated it really liked it
I have always enjoyed Erica's writing. I may not have agreed with her approach to many subjects but still liked the flow of her thoughts and the capturing characters. While reading this one I had to stop myself I was chuckling so much under my breath - how she gently with the wink puts feminism and women empowerment morsels into the mouth of the ancient poetess deserves a good giggle and remains good and soft reminder of how we are connected thru the ages. Lovely. I can imagine not for everyone ...more
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Erica Jong—novelist, poet, and essayist—has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 21 books, including eight novels, six volumes of poetry, six books of non-fiction and numerous articles in magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, the Sunday Times of London, Elle, Vogue, and the New Yor ...more
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“Without the gods, how would I sing?' I asked.
With your own voice,' he said.”
“But if the gods do not exist at all - then we are lost,' I said.
On the contrary - we are found!' said Aesop.
But when we are afraid, who can we turn to, if not the gods?'
Ourselves. We turn to ourselves anyway. We only pretend there are gods and that they care about us. It is a comforting falsehood.”
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