BOOK REVIEW: Searching For Sappho: The Lost Songs & World Of The First Woman Poet by Philip Freeman

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

For more than twenty-five centuries, all that the world knew of the poems of Sappho—the first woman writer in literary history—were a few brief quotations preserved by ancient male authors. Yet those meager remains showed such power and genius that they captured the imagination of readers through the ages. But within the last century, dozens of new pieces of her poetry have been found written on crumbling papyrus or carved on broken pottery buried in the sands of Egypt. As recently as 2014, yet another discovery of a missing poem created a media stir around the world.

The poems of Sappho reveal a remarkable woman who lived on the Greek island of Lesbos during the vibrant age of the birth of western science, art, and philosophy. Sappho was the daughter of an aristocratic family, a wife, a devoted mother, a lover of women, and one of the greatest writers of her own or any age. Nonetheless, although most people have heard of Sappho, the story of her lost poems and the lives of the ancient women they celebrate has never been told for a general audience.

Searching for Sappho is the exciting tale of the rediscovery of Sappho’s poetry and of the woman and world they reveal

My Thoughts:

This year I have been endeavouring to read more poetry by women, and as a result have discovered the work of Sappho, the first known woman poet. She lived more than 2,500 years ago, and only a few fragments of her poems remain. She is also well known for her love poems to other women, and Lesbos - the island on which she was born – now provides us with the term ‘lesbian’ to describe homosexual women.


I bought this book at the iconic Atlantis Bookshop on the Greek island of Santorini while holidaying there with my family in July. It was wonderful to read this engaging and informative book about Sappho and her life and work while being in Greece myself. Philip Freeman does a brilliant job of weaving together the little of what is known about Sappho and the life of women in ancient Greece, as well as some of the interesting ways in which her poetry has survived and been re-discovered. I was particularly happy to discover the book contains every known fragment of her poetry. Perfect reading for a sunny holiday in the Greek islands!


You might also enjoy The Odyssey by David Mendelsohn:


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Kate Forsyth
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