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Red Thread

Red Thread

On Mazes and Labyrinths

Summary

'Charlotte Higgins's Red Thread is a masterwork' Ali Smith

A thrillingly original, labyrinthine journey through myth, art, literature, history, archaeology and memoir.


The tale of how the hero Theseus killed the Minotaur, finding his way out of the labyrinth using Ariadne's ball of red thread, is one of the most intriguing, suggestive and persistent of all myths, and the labyrinth - the beautiful, confounding and terrifying building created for the half-man, half-bull monster - is one of the foundational symbols of human ingenuity and artistry.

Charlotte Higgins, author of the Baillie Gifford-shortlisted Under Another Sky, tracks the origins of the story of the labyrinth in the poems of Homer, Catullus, Virgil and Ovid, and with them builds an ingenious edifice of her own. Along the way, she traces the labyrinthine ideas of writers from Dante and Borges to George Eliot and Conan Doyle, and of artists from Titian and Velázquez to Picasso and Eva Hesse.

Her intricately constructed narrative asks what it is to be lost, what it is to find one's way, and what it is to travel the confusing and circuitous path of a lived life. Red Thread is, above all, a winding and unpredictable route through the byways of the author's imagination - one that leads the reader on a strange and intriguing journey, full of unexpected connections and surprising pleasures.

Reviews

  • Charlotte Higgins's Red Thread is a masterwork, an open-eyed analysis of the everyday mazery we face without even realising it, and an understanding of psychic and narrative architecture that's a pretty crucial piece of equipment for wherever and whenever we find ourselves lost. I read it on the balcony of a hotel in Rome... and it was as if the city itself opened playfully and thoughtfully around the reading experience in its amalgam of pasts and presents, histories and mysteries.
    Ali Smith

About the author

Charlotte Higgins

Charlotte Higgins's previous books include the acclaimed Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain, which was shortlisted for awards including the Samuel Johnson (now Baillie Gifford) Prize for non-fiction, and Red Thread, which was a Radio 4 Book of the Week and won the Arnold Bennett Prize 2019. She is chief culture writer of the Guardian, a past winner of the Classical Association prize, and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. She lives in London.
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