Review: The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier
I read The Iliad earlier this year and never expected to read it again, but here it is again in a different form. Anne Fortier’s take on the ancient story is different, entertaining, and very imaginative. The events of the The Iliad from a female point of view? You bet. I finished The Lost Sisterhood only yesterday and couldn’t wait to write about it.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I think I found The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier on a Libertarian book list. I loved the book even though it is a far-fetched adventure thriller. Come to think of it, all my favorite novels are far-fetched stretchers of plausibility: Ivanhoe, Les Miserables, Kate Atkinson ‘s Life After Life. In the end this novel stirred my imagination and sent thrills of possibility down my spine.
The story begins in the stuffy academic world of the Oxford Ancient Studies department where a 27-year-old philologist named Diana Morgan is counseled by her adviser to keep quiet about her unhealthy interest in the existence of ancient Amazons. It is does not bring respectability to the department to conjecture about the historical reality of sensationalistic comic book characters. But Diana cannot restrain herself from speaking on her favorite topic and one such speech results in a mysterious invitation to fly to Amsterdam view evidence that an Amazon culture really existed. The invitation comes with a photograph that shows mysterious writing in a newly discovered ancient alphabet.
Diana’s interest in the forbidden topic is rooted in her childhood relationship with her grandmother who came to live with Diana’s family after being released from a mental institution. Granny secretly tutored nine-year-old Diana in the ways of the Amazons until her parents got wind of it and began taking steps to put her grandmother away again. With the help of Diana’s piggy bank savings, Granny is able to escape on a bus, never to be heard from again. Only years later does Diana remember the notebook Granny filled with writing from beginning to end. Diana retrieves the notebook from her parents’ files and discovers it to be a dictionary of an ancient language. When she realizes the letters match the ancient letters in the photograph, Diana risks her career and possibly her life to pursue the answers to her questions about the Amazons and the truth about her grandmother.
What is meant to be a one-week research trip turns into a worldwide jaunt involving two sets of pursuers who are after either the notebook, the jackal-headed bracelet on Diana’s wrist, or perhaps Diana herself. Of course there has to be some romance involved, in this case in the form the man with multiple identities who is sexy enough to make Diana forget about her lifelong crush on the young Lord who grew up in her neighborhood and was just beginning to finally show some interest in her at Oxford.
An especially delightful feature of this novel is that as Diana and her colleagues make astounding discoveries, alternate chapters take us to the ancient world during a time just before the fall of Troy where characters from Homer and Greek mythology come vividly to life – Paris, King Priam, Hercules, the evil King Minos, Medusa, and others. I enjoyed how the novel poses some fascinating speculations about possible historic roots of many of the familiar myths.
It takes a while to get that soul-stirring spirit of freedom that put this book on a Libertarian reading list, but when you get the concluding chapters it’s worth it. You realize that while no novel is more far-fetched than the dream of individual freedom there is also nothing that makes life more worth living. I was fascinated by how the story incorporates ideas about living free in a dangerous world – ideas that include living in loosely connected communities that are able to help each other as needed, being flexible about picking up and moving, being well armed, and not being overly dependent on technology. The female point of view was a truly fresh take on the freedom theme and worked excellently since no group has been so consistently enslaved and oppressed throughout human history as women.
In reading the Wikipedia bio on the author I noticed she has a Ph.D. in The History of Ideas from Aarhus University in Denmark. I had no idea there was such a degree but if I were beginning my education now, that’s the degree I’d go for! The Lost Sisterhood is an entertaining novel that offers so much more than mere entertainment. It might to considered a philosophical novel, but not in a heavy-handed way. The entertainment outweighs the philosophy. I look forward to reading Anne Fortier’s other books, beginning with Juliet.
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The Lost Sisterhood: A Novel by Anne Fortier. Published by Ballentine Books, March 11, 2014
The Lost Sisterhood: A Novel by Anne Fortier. Published by Random House Audio, March 11, 2014. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell.