What a historical novel this could have been, a retelling of the life of the iconic poet Sappho! A brilliantly written prologue fires the reader with promise. Sappho stands upon the edge of the Leucadian cliff, looking back upon an eventful life, contemplating suicide. The potential of this beautiful and dramatic opening is, sadly, left unfulfilled. Beginning as a novel in the rich and evocative style of Mary Renault, Sappho’s Leap soon veers into historical fantasy. A restless storyline sweeps the heroine from a poetic girlhood in Lesbos to a forced marriage and a lesbian love affair in Syracuse. From there she goes to consult the Delphic Oracle, next to conquer the fleshpots of Alexandria. On her way home to Lesbos, Sappho is shipwrecked, a female Odysseus, on islands well off any map, inhabited by Amazons and centaurs. Fantasy here becomes polemic. Jong’s customary lucid prose and moving translations from Sappho’s gorgeous fragments simply couldn’t carry the burden of what was apparently an ever-changing intent.