Daughters of the Labyrinth
forthcoming from Corsair, July 2021
Daughters of the Labyrinth
‘A daughter's passionate quest for the truth about what happened to her parents in Crete during the German occupation and a sumptuous and sensuous evocation of Crete itself, its landscape and culture. Ruth Padel brings a poet's eye to this world of great physical beauty and gnarled legacy.’ Colm Tóibín
‘Ruth Padel has a poet’s ear for musical pattern as she winds us into coils within coils of a family’s dark history, horrific suffering and intimate sacrifice. She combines dramatic storytelling with moving reflectiveness, asking us to think again about whether it is better to remember or forget?’ Marina Warner
‘Precise and contemporary, offering a very present Britain and an ever-present past in Crete, both transformed by a beautiful imagination, Ruth Padel’s novel replenishes the heart. Sunlit and love-drenched, magical and historical, surprising, elegant, and beautifully written.’ Andrew O’Hagan
‘Incredibly moving, capturing the vividness of the artist’s way of seeing the world with such lyricism and luminosity that reading it becomes profoundly sensory, like painting. Alive with the colours and fierce light of Crete, the story is often painful in its revelations but also full of humanity and tenderness.’ Claudia Tobin, author of Still Life and Modernism: Artists, Writers, Dancers
We never thought we were immune. We know we need protection - God’s commandments at your door, a smoke cross on your lintel, a sword of healing in the mosque. Break a pomegranate at New Year, keep a goldfinch against plague. Use a face mask. Do what the doctor says.
A rich and gripping story about love, belonging and identity, parents and children, memory and painting, Daughters of the Labyrinth explores the hold of the past on the present, and the uncertainties about what lies beneath the surface of your life.
The novel opens as Brexit looms in the UK, while Greece grapples with austerity and the refugee crisis. Under the surface, in a land of mass tourism and ancient myth where Europe’s oldest civilisation was long ago buried by tsunami, lie folk legends of revenants and demons but also an unnerving silence about more recent history.
Ri is a successful artist who has worked in London all her life. When her English husband dies, she turns to her Greek roots on the island of Crete only to discover they are not what she thought. Unearthing her parents’ stories transforms her relationship to her family, her country and herself.
Published in the 200th year of Greek independence, looking back to resistance to the German occupation with echoes of earlier risings against Turkish rule, Daughters of the Labyrinth is also a very contemporary story. As lockdown and coronavirus transform life across the globe we watch an artist, who has lived by seeing, discover how very much she has not seen, and that she carries in herself the shade of someone she never heard of. She has to see herself newly, and paint from a different self.