Book Review – Greek Myths: A New Retelling

Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m bringing you my review of Greek Myths: A New Retelling, retold by Charlotte Higgins.

Synopsis
Here are myths of the creation, of Heracles and Theseus and Perseus, the Trojan war and its origins and aftermaths, tales of Thebes and Argos and Athens. There are stories of love and desire, adventure and magic, destructive gods, helpless humans, fantastical creatures, resourceful witches and the origins of birds and animals. This is a world of extremes, and one that resonates deeply with our own: mysterious diseases devastate cities; environmental disasters tear lives apart; women habitually suffer violence at the hands of men.

Unlike in many previous collected myths, female characters take centre stage – Athena, Helen, Circe, Penelope and others weave these stories into elaborate imagined tapestries. In Charlotte Higgins’s thrilling new interpretation, their tales combine to form a dazzling, sweeping epic of storytelling, and a magnificent work of scholarship and imagination.

Review
Over recent years, we’ve seen a wonderful surge in woman-based historical fiction. However, as Charlotte Higgins so very rightly says, the majority of Greek mythology books – and translations, for that matter – remain focused on the exploites of men, only mentioning women when worth marrying, raping, or murdering. There’s no escaping that this is the classical role of women, and could easily be argued that things haven’t changed nearly as much as they should have, yet Higgins manages to capture this reality while also recasting the stories so they aren’t so abrasive. Or maybe, they are abrasive, but in the right way; you feel the rage, rather than an impassive acceptance.

Taking on a unique idea, Higgins takes the communal pastime of Greek women – weaving – and turns it to the center of each of their stories. As we meet each woman, she is weaving her tapastry, capturing the stories that are connected to her, or that she feels an involvement with. It’s a brilliant way to tackle these tales, when there’s so many of them should you just glance at the list. It also put the women at the very center of the stories, which is rather the point.

Because of the nature of some of the stories, it’s not exactly the most relaxing book, and yet you can’t help but become enchanted by the telling of them. Between the retelling and the stunning narration, this can be a book to soothe frayed nerves and help fuel the power of rage; it’s a good balance between both.

Overall, I know this version of the Greek tales will become my go-to for recommendations should I be asked, and I also know that I’ll be pushing my son – a mythology fan – in the direction of it too.

Thanks for stopping by today. If you’re interested in Greek Mythology books, especially those I mention being woman-focused, why not have a look at my reviews of Ariadne, The Women of Troy, and The Immortal Game.

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