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Alcestis

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3.56  ·  Rating details ·  566 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
In Greek myth, Alcestis is known as the ideal wife; she loved her husband so much that she died and went to the underworld in his place. In this vividly-imagined debut, Katharine Beutner gives voice to the woman behind the ideal and reveals the part of the story that’s never been told: What happened to Alcestis in the three days she spent in the underworld?
ebook, 304 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Soho Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Kelly
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The ancient Greeks held up Alcestis as a model of wifely devotion. Her husband, Admetus, was spared from death on the condition that someone else die in his place. When Admetus’ relatives and friends refused, Alcestis volunteered herself and made the journey to the underworld, but was later rescued by Heracles. In her debut novel, a poignant literary fantasy, Katharine Beutner fleshes out the figure of Alcestis, and gives her a backstory that helps explain her willingness to sacrifice herself.

Be
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Mely
From http://coffeeandink.dreamwidth.org/10...

Review copy provided by the agent.

For years I've loved the historical novels of Mary Renault, and for almost as many years I've longed for versions of them that centered on women. The apparent effortlessness of the world-building in Renault's rich recreations of Classical Greece is matched only by the elegance of her prose and the fascinating obliquity of her characterization; she is one of English's great masters of textual negative space. In her boo
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Kogiopsis
This book reminded me quite a bit of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Palace Of Illusions and that's good, because that book is what all myth retellings have to live up to in my mind.

Now, bear in mind that I'm not familiar with the original myth of Alcestis.

That being said, this book was gorgeous. The writing might seem overwrought to some readers, but I found it lyrical, visceral, and intense. Alcestis is very much a woman of her times and culture, not a feminist insert put there to challenge t
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Ksenia
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So the book follows this myth very closely. I wasn’t totally familiar with the original myth so I had to go and read about it. The part that the author focuses on during the last part of the book is Alcestis’ time in the Underworld. Now, I was wholly enjoying everything about the book while I was reading it, but when it got to those three days spent in the Underworld, I felt a slight disconnect. But first….

I really liked the fact that the gods were part of the mortal world, and that they weren’t
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Nikki
I'm torn on this one. It was spellbinding, but in a soft, dusty way -- Alcestis as a character is too obedient for most of her life to have any colour to her. The bit in the Underworld is still quite colourless, quite literally, except for Persephone. I was actually more interested in the relationship between Hades and Persephone than that between Persephone and Alcestis. I wanted to understand them, what made them tick, what made them volatile.

I understand that there's actually a degree of hist
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Tjaša
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful.
Jane
Jun 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Started out great, giving Alcestis' backstory while growing up and was good through her marriage, but I lost her when we got to Hades and her adventures there. I skimmed most of it set in Hades, then finished up. Her dealings with Persephone were not believable and made me uncomfortable. I enjoyed most the author's comments at the back. Cover misled me; such an atmospheric cover made me eager to read the story.
Hannah
Aug 12, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I didn't read closely enough, but it took me a few chapters to realize that the gods Alcestis spoke of were actually real and not metaphorical. A lot of things described in the book were hard for me to imagine for some reason. Not a lot of action happens, but Alcestis thinks a lot about the things going on around her and has a strange obsession with her sister.

I didn't know the myth of Alcestis, so about 2/3s through the book, I thought Whoa, this can't be right. When I looked up the myt
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Liza Gilbert
The beginning of this Greek myth of 16 year-old Alcestis, who dies in order to save her husband, is enjoyably visceral. In some ways, I was reminded of HBO's Rome. Beunter did a nice job with the historical details, and I felt fairly sunk into the story early on. Descriptions of food, place, smells, and touch were placed throughout the text without going overboard.

I enjoyed the first half of the book, but then things started to unravel and the quality of the writing went downhill. Beutner's dep
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Sheila
I just received an autographed copy of this from the author through Goodreads First Reads. Thank you Katharine!

I entered to win this book because I love reading about Greek mythology. But as much as I enjoy learning the stories of the gods and the mortals, usually the writing of Greek mythology is very dry, and often hard to follow. I enjoy learning, but often have to force myself to actually read it.

But then comes Katharine Beutner's Alcestis. Greek mythology written as a thoroughly enjoyable,
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Tara Chevrestt
Oct 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, 2010-release
This falls into the fantasy genre, I think. I normally read historical fiction, but my interest in Greek mythology caused me to pick this up. I have kept my personal tastes in mind while writing this review.

The first half of this novel is wonderful. Readers meet Alcestis, grand daughter of Poseidon, god of the sea. Alcestis's mother died birthing her and her father is a cruel man who really has nothing to do with his daughters. Therefore, Alcestis grows attached to her sisters, and one in parti
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Stephanie Dray
This is a different kind of book--one that's hard to categorize. It's certainly historical fiction. It's certainly historical fantasy. It's also allegorical, more literary than commercial, but a very poignant read. One of the delights of this novel is that the author takes the Greeks at their word. Olympian deities show up, just like in Homer, and they're terrifyingly alien and familiar at once. Forget to honor a goddess and she may throw snakes in your bed. You just never know. But instead of t ...more
Stephanie
I've been getting so lazy on reviews lately, but I'm going to get caught up now. This one fulfills the category of 'retelling of a classic story' for the Read Harder Challenge.

Prior to this book I had never really heard of the story of Alcestis. That didn't really take away from the story. If anything it enhanced it for me. I remember reading up on greek myth in my early teens, and always struck by the stories of mortal women who have been seduced and/or raped by the gods, thereby bearing their
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Martina Dominique Aspen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard
Apr 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alcestis is a wonderful first novel from Katharine Beutner, and the only reason I mention it as a first is just because it amazes me that someone can be this good right out of the starting gate.

Alcestis' husband, the mortal lover of Apollo has been granted the boon of one refusal to death providing someone steps forward to take his place. Death comes, no one steps forward. Sensing the shame that would befall her husband if no one died for him, Alcestis steps forward. Hermes takes her to the unde
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Tori Hoeschler
Ancient Greek Myth Turned Acid Trip
I love me my Greek myths. Persephone’s abduction is explanation for seasons? Yes please. Athena punishes master weaver Arachne by turning her into a spyder who’s cursed to “weave” forever? Outstanding.
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 thro
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Julie
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't expect to read Alcestis in three days. It's an amusing coincidence, to see my reading habits coincide with the timeline of this Grecian myth. But more importantly: it's a delightful surprise.

I fell into this story... neatly. Almost efficiently. Definitely thanklessly. I was somewhere around the second chapter the first and only time I spared a thought for the author; it struck me that Katharine Beutner didn't seem to relish her own words, or spend too much time prettying them up before
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Minli
May 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, mythic, adult
(3.5) An elegant and vivid re-imagining of the myth of Alcestis. Admitting upfront that I wasn't familiar with the myth, and I don't read a lot of literary fiction. As a novel that starts with the character's birth, the pacing was impressive up to the point where Alcestis enters the underworld--however, like a shade's inability to emote and remember, I found the chapters set in the underworld too abstract to connect with. Alcestis is willful and stubborn, looking for the long-lost sister who die ...more
Leslie
Jun 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hoping that Beutner's imaginative story of Alcestis, the wife who loved her husband so well she chose to die in his stead, would match up with Jo Graham's re-telling of the Aeneid (Black Ships), Alcestis unfortunately disappoints. Beutner has the imagination to create the untold story of Alcestis' early life and journey to the underworld, but her prose is dry enough in spots that it reminds one of the crumb coat put on before the real frosting on wedding cakes - sweet, thin, and not really satis ...more
Alice
I was a strange child who spent more time with Greek myths than actual people, so this book made me very happy. It's a clever, subversive reimagining of the Alcestis myth, elegantly written. Alcestis's relationship with Persephone is fascinating and intriguing, reminding me of Kushiel's Dart (and Jacqueline Carey actually blurbs the book). I look forward to more work from Ms. Beutner in the future.
Danielle
Apr 15, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a terrible book, from beginning to end. I normally love reading re-tellings of myths, but the unrealistic, two-dimensional characters ruined this book for me. The main character Alcestis, for example, has no enduring values or traits and does not develop at all throughout the work. Beautner may know her myths but she does not understand how to compose a work of fiction properly.
Skyler White
Feb 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An elegant and cooly erotic re-telling of th Alcestis myth. It raised questions for me that I'm still turning over in my mind. It's the least anachronistic bit of historical fiction I've ever read in that the characters have almost no insight into their own emotional processes. Which,I had to keep reminding myself, is entirely accurate for people a thousand years away from Freud.
Dax Murray
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emeline
Well, this certainly stirred some... mixed reactions from me, to say the least.

This book starts off very sweet. I love seeing the depth and intensity of Alcestis' relationships with each of her sisters, how their care for each other differs but they still all feel like nuanced and real enough characters to really fit together as a family. That alone was a really great part of the book.

I'll admit, though, from the start the book was a slow one. Slow to the point of me putting the book aside and n
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Jing
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-favourites
3.5 Stars. Loved the first half of the book, unfortunately the second half of the book was abrupt and confusing for me.
Alice
I like fairy tale and mythology retellings, in general. I've read a lot of really creative and interesting ones. I've also read a lot that detracted from the original story in its reimagining. I was hoping Alcestis was one of the former, but, unfortunately, it fell into the latter category.

The story of Alcestis in myth is one of wifely devotion. She so loved her husband that, when his death came, she volunteered to take his place. Heracles (aka Hercules, Herakles, and various combinations thereo
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Ana
Mar 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Where do I start? This book was amazing! A tragic love story... just not between the two people the reader might think...

I learned about this book because one of my favorite authors, Stephanie Dray, was reading it. Since I like to get my hands on everything that's been written about Ancient Greece and Rome, I decided to buy it. At first I couldn't get past the first chapter; it was so sad (Duh! Euripides called them tragedies for a reason...). But then I got around to it and, after the seco
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Brenna
Feb 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-copies, soho
.5 Stars (rounded up to 3)

I've mentioned this before, but I'm a sucker for any book that has to do with Greek mythology. I honestly want to read them all (if only there was enough time)! Alcestis is one myth that I'm not nearly as familiar with, and I actually don't think I've read the original but this one intrigued me regardless.

With an excellent, strong start I fell in love nearly immediately... but I was a tad disappointed with a lackluster finish.

1.'Fantastic representation of mythology:

K
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Rachel
All I knew about this book was the summary I read on goodreads, that it was a re-imagined story of the Greek figure Alcestis, who, in Euripides' play, agrees to die in the place of her husband Admetus, so that he may live forever. In Katharine Beutner's retelling, after sacrificing herself for her husband, Alcestis falls in love with the queen of the underworld, Persephone. Sign. Me. Up. I was so excited to read this that I put aside several things that were higher up on my TBR list. And now, ha ...more
Jessica
The Alcestis we know through myth is the ideal wife, one who loved her husband so much that she died to save his life, and went to the Underworld in his place. This is about as much information as we have about her. She is written about in songs and poems and Euripides wrote of her great sacrifice in his play by the same name.

Who was this woman, Alcestis? What happened to her during the three days she spent in Hades’ realm? Euripides’ play bears her name, but it is a story told by Apollo and fea
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3106975
I write fiction and creative nonfiction and teach writing and literature at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. My novel ALCESTIS, a retelling of the Greek myth, is available from Soho Press.

Read an excerpt from ALCESTIS here, or watch me read from the book here.
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