There’s been a resurgence in the past couple of years of retelling Greek myths, especially through a feminist perspective as writers are keen to explore the women who were erased out the narrative. I’ve always loved Greek myths (huge Percy Jackson fan here) and I’m interested to learn more about ancient history and classics. Here are my 5 recommendations for anyone who’s looking for a new book to read:
- A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes – This is the book that I read most recently. It tells the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective. What I loved the most about this book was how rich and layered the writing was. Haynes not only incorporated voiceless women who were left out in the Odyssey or the Iliad, but she also included minor goddesses, who have often been unheard.
- Circe by Madeleine Miller – Circe is a powerful enchantress who is most known for her part in The Odyssey where she tried to seduce Odysseus and turned his men into pigs. In this book, Circe is no longer the formidable witch of Aiaia and a character in someone else’s story, but we get to see her beginnings as an outcast teenager to her transformation into a strong woman who must fight to protect herself and that which she holds dear.
- Songs of Achilles by Madeleine Miller – Another book by Miller, this one being her debut novel. It was awarded the Orange Prize for fiction in 2012. Told through Patroclus’ point of view, who was a constant companion, and lover, to Achilles. The bond between the two endures as they were dragged into the toils of the Trojan War. Even though this book did not focus on the women, it was really refreshing to see queer representation in the novel. Miller managed to capture the intense nature of same-sex desire between men, which was told in an utterly exquisite, painfully beautiful prose.
- The silence of the Girls by Pat Barker – This book recounts the events of the Iliad from the point of view of Briseis, a Trojan queen who is captured by the Greek army and forced to become a bed slave to Achilles. The novel’s intense, often coarsely raw, portrayal of women’s experiences of war and its complete lack of glamorisation of anything military left a deep impression on me.
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood – This shorter novella follows the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus, who was left alone in Ithaca when he goes to war. In this book, Penelope finally gets to tell her story, revealing the truth behind some of Odysseus’s’ greatest heroic triumphs and the reality of her long wait for his return. Atwood expertly showed us the double standards between the sexes and the importance of perspective.
If anyone is interested in learning more about Greek myths, I would highly recommend Mythos, Heroes and Troy by Stephen Fry.