We follow Ovid as he writes some of his most popular works. He travels to the Black Sea, and encounters the witch Xenia. He takes her back to Rome, and their relationship influences his current work Medea. The very real emotions of love, jealousy, hatred, fear of failure, the desperate need to succeed, and the need to be remembered after death are examined in this portrayal of Ovid.
I found it compelling that Alison, when writing about these emotions uses very limited dialogue to convey them. Written from the character's perspectives, many of these emotions are felt, but are not communicated. The lack of communication is what drives their feelings and actions, pushing them towards their dramatic end.
Two of the great mysteries surrounding Ovid are the content of his tragedy Medea, and why he was exiled from Rome in AD 8. All that has survived from his work Medea, are two lines. We know the myth of Medea, but it would be fascinating to have Ovid's rendition of the tale. Alison also explores one possibility for his exile from Rome -- that he has offended the Emperor with his actions after already being in a tenuous position because of his writing. All we really know is that Ovid was exiled from Rome, but not why.
I read this book for a Historical Fiction course I'm taking. I liked the real emotions that were portrayed in the story. I found the human side to these characters to be relatable, and an interesting motivation for some timeless work. I thought there was a little too much description at some points, but if you can move through that, you will be open to some interesting thoughts on human nature.