My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Engaging, often revelatory, solidly-documented yet clearly-worded–this book by Philip Freeman now rests on my “indispensable” shelf. SEARCHING FOR SAPPHO is neither the daily journal of an archeologist digging in Greece, nor a volume of commentary on Greek poetry presented by a literary critic. Instead, it is a rich itinerary for the amateur detective inside all of us; it is an irresistible field guide for anyone who relishes the challenge of scavenger hunts. Deploying a wealth of existing literary and historical artifacts, clues, citations, testimonials, and translations, Mr. Freeman invites us along as he correlates the subject matter embodied in Sappho’s surviving poems to some reliable deductions about the geography, culture, domestic life, religion, and political events of the region that Sappho called home in the seventh century BC. Most fascinating to me were his evidence for, and conjectures about, the female predicament–how Sappho lived her life as wealthy daughter, sister to three brothers, prominent wife, devoted mother, passionate lover, respected ceremonial poetess, and role model for women of later centuries. I recommend this worthy book for a wide audience.