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Betray the Night: A Novel about Ovid by…
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Betray the Night: A Novel about Ovid

by Benita Kane Jaro

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This fascinating and enthralling novel was the author's speculation on why Ovid was relegated to Tomis on the Black Sea. He tells us himself in his later poems it was because of "Carmen et error" [a song and a mistake] and also that he saw something, but nothing criminal. The poet's wife, Pinnaria, after the relegation, tries in vain talking to nobility and the imperial family to have him brought back. In her attempts, while searching a house in the slums, she finds a scrap of a leather book cover. This is the first clue as to the reason for Ovid's disgrace. Her wanderings lead her from talking to slaves, freedmen, then to disgraced royalty. She finds out which of her friends and relations present their true faces to her.

This was quite an interesting speculation, which the author has reconstructed from primary sources. I liked Pinnaria's transition from ordinary Roman matron to a strong female figure when she takes control of her own life. Lyrical and descriptive writing made the book out of the ordinary. The impressionistic front cover done in shades of green showing her on the shore and the ship bearing her husband away, was something special. The title is taken from one of Ovid's poems in his "Heroines": about Penelope, in myth the wife of Odysseus, she exhibiting the same determination and patience as Pinnaria. Each endures a long separation from her husband. To me there was an implied comparison between the two.

I did find several errors on p. 147 in my copy which someone should have noticed: Pinaria's cousin, Macer, tells her about the Varian Disaster in the Teutoberg--Legions XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX should have been XVII, XVIII, and XIX. The German leader's name was Arminius, NOT Ariminius. Although the mistakes should be corrected, they did not interrupt the flow of the story.

Highly recommended. Upon rereading I did not change my opinion. ( )
  janerawoof | Apr 19, 2016 |
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