Hands down, Greek Mythology would be my mastermind subject. I studied Classical Civilisation during my A-Levels and, six years later, I am half-way through a free greek mythology course via Coursera. To put it plainly, I simply haven’t stopped being totally obsessed with the world of Zeus and Athena since it unfolded before me. I might be a student forever. Discounts galore, please.
Due to this divine need to constantly consume greek myths, naturally fictional retellings of them are one of my favourite story genres. Below, I have listed three of my favourites greek mythology books as well as an extra one that I cannot wait to get my mitts on.
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The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood (2005)
Atwood is the real goddess. Her words are like a dagger dipped in a love potion. They prick and force your fleshy bits to delicately crumble while you swoon with delight. An almost-sadistic spectacle to behold indeed. With her meaty decade-spanning discography never going out of fashion, it is said with some backing that anything Atwood touches turns to solid gold. That statement definitely includes the greek myths. Enter, The Penelopiad.
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood was commissioned alongside Jeanette Winterson’s Weight and Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ as part of the Canongate Myth Series. In this novella, Atwood retells events from Homer’s The Odyssey. However, instead of seeing Hades and Helen Of Troy from the usual perspective of The Odyssey’s hero, Odysseus, we watch from the sidelines with his wife, Penelope.
This fast-paced novella boasts both an epistolary narrative as well as a traditional chorus and a form of stream-of-consciousness. Before its time where the trend of lifting scorned women of the Greek Myths to higher heights, The Penelopiad is simply remarkable. Do not be put off by its slimness, some of the best stories are the ones that say less than they should.
Pandora’s Jar – Natalie Haynes (2020)
Natalie Haynes, the author of Pandora’s Jar, is best described as a classicist-comedian hybrid. She’s smart, funny, and savvy. In fact, I have a little crush on her. The way she makes Greek Mythology come alive is like no other.
Her non-fiction read, Pandora’s Jar isn’t so much of a retelling as it is a myth-buster. In the book, Haynes unpicks the myths we have been weaved (the evil Gorgon Medusa and Pandora, who unleashed evil on the world from her box), unravels the misogyny wrapped around them, and dives into the fleshy underbelly of truth. Would you believe that Pandora and Medusa were innocent women who writers over the years have layered evil upon? That – alongside popular culture references and how these women have been shown in the media, puts Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes in a league of its own.
Circe – Madeleine Miller (2018)
If you are somewhat oblivious to Madeline Miller’s charms then now is the time to get aquatinted. Miller’s retellings feel so true and raw, with emotion peeling itself from the pages of her second novel, Circe. If you are an Odyssey fan then you may remember Circe as the witchcraft-practicing lover of Odysseus. The one who turned his men into pigs? You got it. However, her story neither begins nor closes its curtains at the flick of Odysseus’ fingers.
Circe follows the daughter of Helios from the banishment of the sun gods’ halls, to meeting Odysseus’ son and poisoning and creating the monstrous Scylla. It is an emotional and raw retelling of a forgotten Grecian nymphs story. If you are a big greek mythology fan then this one should be top of your list. While you are at it, place Madeline Miller’s The Song Of Achillies up there too. Both will leave you swooning.
Lore – Alexandra Bracken (2021)
I don’t know about you but recently, my social media has been saturated with images of Lore by Alexandra Bracken. This young adult, the geek mythology-inspired story is literally everywhere. Funnily you can even find it in my Amazon basket awaiting payday! I wonder how it got there. Lore is a Hunger Games meets modern day-myth mash-up which features a sparse number of Greek gods, such as Athena, in supporting roles. If you are wondering why the number of gods and goddesses is limited, it is because they have been killed by those with godly ambitions. Immortals dying? You have my attention.
Boasting a strong female lead and a friends-to-lovers romance line set in New York, it is fair to say that Lore is no ordinary greek myth-inspired read. Hopefully, I will be able to give you a full rundown of my Lore thoughts in the coming months. Are you as excited as I am?