Orpheus: The Song of Life by Ann Wroe - review by Frederic Raphael

Frederic Raphael

Secrets and Lyres

Orpheus: The Song of Life


Jonathan Cape 262pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Ann Wroe’s favourite activity, it seems, is to plunge into the lacunae between myth and reality, history and fable. As she proved by her lively descant on Pontius Pilate (who she dared to suggest might have been born in Britain), she has a flighty capacity to spin webs of words, anchored in myth and anecdote, which supply a bridge between what others have said and what fancy supplies. Both erudite and eclectic, in Orpheus she seems as much at home in Greek myth as she was, several books ago, dealing with life in the Middle Ages in the French city of Rodez, in the Aveyron.

Like Dionysus, who shares some of his distracting characteristics (both led people a pretty dance), Orpheus was an alien enchanter. Never quite fully Greek, he was born in bristling Thrace, where his father was said by some to be the king and by others to be a ‘sheep-herder

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