The Love-Artist: A Novel - Jane Alison

Had this book not been assigned to me for a course, I most likely would not have picked it up. And that, my friends, would be a sorrow and a pity; I would have missed out on something brilliant.

Author Jane Alison has created one of the most lyrical novels I've ever read. Her book imagines Ovid as he writes his "Medea" (only two lines of which survive), inspired by two women in his life: Xenia and Julia.

One of the things I found most interesting about this book is how little dialogue was used. Alison shows us what the three main characters are thinking and feeling, while creating an impression that they seldom speak about those feelings or the decisions that result from them. From the moment Ovid meets Xenia in the Caucasus to the time that they part company, we have a picture of Ovid's Rome (and Xenia's disturbing visions of its future), with all of the politics and violence that were at play during his time. We also see three people steeped in their own needs and not caring that they use others around them as pawns.

The prose in this book is nothing short of gorgeous. Fans of literary and historical fiction will both find much to like here.