Department of English

Graduate Student Katharine Beutner publishes her first novel, "Alcestis"

Tue, February 2, 2010
Graduate Student Katharine Beutner publishes her first novel,
Alcestis image by SoHo Press / Beutner photo by Wylie Maercklein

The English Department congratulates graduate student Katharine Beutner on the publication of her first novel, Alcestis.  Katharine grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and earned a BA in classical studies from Smith College in 2003.  She recently completed an MA in creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is currently a PhD student in eighteenth-century British literature. Her short-short, “Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster,” has appeared in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. Alcestis is her first novel.



In Greek myth, Alcestis is known as the ideal good wife; she loved her husband so much that she died to save his life and was sent to the underworld in his place. In this poetic and vividly-imagined debut, Katharine Beutner gives voice to the woman behind the ideal, bringing to life the world of Mycenaean Greece, a world peopled by capricious gods, where royal women are confined to the palace grounds and passed as possessions from father to husband.

Alcestis tells of a childhood spent with her sisters in the bedchamber where her mother died giving birth to her and of her marriage at the age of fifteen to Admetus, the young king of Pherae, a man she barely knows, who is kind but whose heart belongs to a god. She also tells the part of the story that's never been told: What happened to Alcestis in the three days she spent in the underworld before being rescued by Heracles? In the realm of the dead, Alcestis falls in love with the goddess Persephone and discovers the true horror and beauty of death.



"Beutner renders her multilayered heroine with beauty and delicacy, and concerns herself with no less than the intricacies of the soul…" —Publishers Weekly

"Beutner has elevated a relatively minor character in Greek mythology to a major player…In this reworking of the classic legend, a decidedly more complex and restless Alcestis is provided with an intriguing backstory involving her childhood and the untimely death of her favorite sister, Hippothoe…Beutner spices up this classic tale with a decidedly Sapphic flavor." —Booklist

"The piquant novel is as alluring as Persephone’s pomegranates; its protagonist as exceptional as Beutner’s vision." —ForeWord Magazine

Press and Events

    ¤ Interviews:

      "Greek girl gets her own back in mythical tale," an interview by Joe Gross, Austin American Statesman
      "Alcestis explores unknown story of character in Greek mythology," an interview with ShelfLife@Texas

    ¤ Events:

February 7, 2010, at 3:00 PM
Book launch event hosted by BookPeople 
603 N. Lamar Blvd, Austin TX
There will be food, drink, and a short reading.

March 18, 2010 
Reading at Bloomsbury Books, Ashland, OR

May 27-31, 2010
WisCon 34: The World's Leading Feminist Science Fiction Convention
Madison, Wisconsin



"They knew the child’s name only because her mother died cursing it, clutching at the bloodied bedclothes and spitting out the word as if it tasted sour on her tongue. After a few minutes her tongue stilled, and her limbs too, until she lay on the bed gray and cold as stone. The servants stood around the bed in a rough circle, looking down at the tangled mess the queen had made and thinking of the rituals her death would require, the sacrifices, the burning herbs nailed in clusters to the mud-brick walls. The room smelled of copper and sweat, as if a great battle had been fought within it. Anaxibia had warred with death and lost; for the moment, at least, her baby daughter had won."

Read more at the author's website.


For more information about Katharine Beutner, Alcestis, or where to order the novel, please visit the official Soho Press page or Katharine's blog,

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