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Sappho's Leap

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  774 ratings  ·  79 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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Community Reviews

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Andrew Reeves
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
...more
Ashley
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
Alicia
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
Mo
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
Alberteinsteinmaloney
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
...more
Melissa Jackson
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
...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
Heather Truett
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
...more
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.
sheena
oh shit. good reads (or i) just deleted my entire crap review.

can i be bothered to rewrite?
meh.

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
...more
Grady Ormsby
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
Judith
Back in the 70's we all read Fear of Flying. It was a mandate for women's liberation. This is the first novel I have read of Jong's.

The life of Sappho, a writer of erotic songs, born about 2600 years ago on the Greek island of Lesbos, re-imagined as a beautifully told myth full of gods and goddesses and magical creatures. In the style one might expect from Erica Jong, this myth is racy, insightful and funny. The story parallels The Odyssey and is a fun read.
Kate Birgel
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.
Jessica
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.
David
I associate the cover picture with Tanith Lee's Vivia.
Yarrow
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
Lia
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
Margaret
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
...more
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
...more
Sharon
Erica Jong is unexpectedly becoming my favorite author - this book is a delight! Lively, wise, steeped in mythology but feels contemporary, and only the slightest bit racy. Perfect for you if you liked The Song of Achilles, and I also constantly thought of Ted Hughes's translation of Ovid.
Charlotte M
"[T]here were remarkably few agreed-upon facts about Sappho. For a historian, this is an obstacle; for a novelist, it may be a blessing.… Every age that fell in love with her made her its own. Since she became a muse to later poets, they fashioned her in their own image."-Erica Jong
Oyster
We’ll spare you our feeble attempts at poetry and instead recommend this bold re-imagining of the life and loves of this ancient Greek poet. Sappho’s lyric poems relayed good and bad love stories with both sexes, and Erica Jong makes these old affairs feel modern with her racy writing.
Louise Armstrong
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.

Bleah!

The fantasy didn't make sense: if anything can happen, in any order, not linking into a plot,
...more
Richard Smith
The book is an attempt by Jong to write a female version of the Odyssey. Plus it's a book of love because Sappho, the poet, is a follower of Aphrodite. I appreciated the attempt to recreate myths, but in th end it didn't quote work. I read the book to the end, but rather a silly book.
Maria Ana
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
...more
Crystal
Just plain silly. Almost like a Rick Riordan novel for grown ups, Jong just whips Greek mythology and what little we know about sappho's life
into a frothy brew that's more soft drink than champagne. What could have been a thoughtful novel about women, sex and art ended up as
Days of Our Lives set in ancient Greece. Only good thing that came of reading this was that I immediately wanted to dive into the richness of Sappho's own fragments.

This is one literary leap that fell flat.
Hannah Harder
I had trouble getting into it, but I appreciated a view of Sappho where she is treated as bisexual. Pretty prose.
Leslie Kitchin
I was very disappointed in the quality of the writing. I thought it was terrible.
rowantha
it's like modern mythology which is interesting.
Elizabeth
Not what I expected in the least! Based on Jong's other book that I read, I thought this would be some modern lesbian coming-of-age story. Instead, I got historical fiction about the real Sappho. It was enjoyable, with lots of sex and adventures. And I loved the meta aspect of Zeus and Aphrodite discussing the story as it went along. One thing I didn't like was the poems that Jong tacked on at the end, same as in her other novel.. I don't think they're as good as her prose.
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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
More about Erica Jong...
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“Without the gods, how would I sing?' I asked.
With your own voice,' he said.”
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“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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