In her very lively and eminently readable book Dr. O'Brien makes a solid case for her core in sight, namely, that the Metamorphoses in fact is a seamless garment, woven from creative imagination and Platonist concerns, and focusing on the abiding issue of discourse. This is an important perspective, and it will significantly enhance future discussion both of Apuleius and of the Platonist tradition. This book is a study of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius of Madaura which takes as its starting point the proposition that Apuleius, as a serious student of Platonism, adopts as a guiding theme in his narrative the distinction between two types of rhetoric, or discourse (logos), first set out by Plato in the Gorgias and the Phaedrus, but later becomes a basic assumption of the Platonic tradition, a 'higher' type, which is based upon a philosophical understanding of the world of Forms and true reality, and employs logos only in the service of a search for the truth, and a 'lower', sophistical, type, which employs every sort of trickery to secure an advantage based on appearance rather than reality. This insight is worked out with considerable ingenuity, and, 1 find, plausibility.
After an introductory chapter, in which she sets out the philosophical background, she turns to a study of the novel itself. Lucius' journey into Thessaly, the traditional home of witchcraft, and all the trickery and illusion associated with that, may be reasonably equated with the sublunary world in general. This is reinforced by the introductory tale, involving a character called 'Socrates' a detail which she ingeniously relates to the fact that the real Socrates chose not to go into exile in Thessaly, but to face death in Athens instead. The events of the 'Day of Laughter' are then examined, from the point of view of their reinforcing the motif of illusion and trickery, and of the rhetoric associated with that. And lastly, a study of the tale of Cupid and Psyche relates this episode to the Platonic doctrine of the higher and lower, or rational and irrational, soul, with Psyche herself as the rational soul, and the wicked sisters as the two parts of the irrational soul. This monograph is an important contribution to our understanding of the full extent of Apuleius' artistry in the composition of the Metamorphoses.