‘What brings a beautiful girl to such a deserted place on this enchanting night? … You look like the ocean nymph, Calypso, waiting for Odysseus on your island, ready to bewitch him with your mesmerizing voice.’
So says Damian, hero of my latest novel Aphrodite’s Tears, at the start of the book, when he happens across the heroine, Oriel, sitting alone on a beach. What transpires is a moonlit night of hedonism and passion, one of those moments in time of perfect synchronicity.
The next morning, though, when Oriel awakes, ‘Her Greek god had gone and she almost wondered whether the ecstasy she remembered just a few hours before had been real.’ In that moment, Oriel resolves never to let any man abandon her again.
So imagine her shock – and dismay, and confusion – when six years later she takes a job supervising an archaeological survey on a private Greek island and discovers her new employer is none other than her Greek god.
Damian’s emotional reaction to meeting Oriel again is far simpler. To him, she is still Calypso – beauty and temptress.
In calling Oriel his Calypso, Damian is drawing on the Ancient Greek myths, particularly the Odyssey by Homer. Calypso was a nymph, the daughter of the Titan Atlas (he who held up the sky). She lived on the island of Ogygia, and when the hero Odysseus landed there on his journey home after the Trojan War, she decided to keep him there as her lover. Though he was married and yearned to return home to his wife, she seduced him with her beautiful voice and kept him at her side – until, after seven years, Zeus ordered her to release him, and she let him go.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote of Odysseus after he returned home in ‘Ulysses’. In the poem, Odysseus is restless. ‘I am a part of all that I have met,’ he says. This is Damian in the years after he spent the night with Oriel – he was a part of her still. Now that he has brought her into his life, he can think of nothing but being with her; because he desires her, yes, as Odysseus desired Calypso, but also because he loves her.
If Oriel is Damian’s Calypso, does it so follow that he is her Odysseus, a hero whose heart truly belongs to another? Or is he, after all, the Greek god she thought him to be on that beautiful night when they first found each other?