From Madeline Miller’s Circe and Natalie Hayne’s The Song Of Achilles, here are nine books based on ancient Greek myths for a bit of escapist reading.
Romance. Vengeance. Monsters. Beauty. Battles. Sex. Gods. Greek mythology has all the ingredients for beautiful and gripping stories that people have devoured for thousands of years. From Theseus and the Minotaur to Pandora’s Box and The Battle of Troy, the tales of ancient Greece continue to grip audiences around the world. It always has been, and always will be, the ultimate storytelling.
But that doesn’t stop modern minds from retelling famous myths in new and exciting ways. You only need to look at Netflix’s animation series, Blood Of Zeus, which was a surprise ratings hit in the second lockdown. But if you really want to get lost in a world of Greek mythology retellings, there are plenty of books to dive into…
Set against a backdrop of Greece’s blue seas and sandy islands, these modern myths are the perfect way to escape for a while, especially during the pandemic. Madeline Miller’s Circe and Natalie Hayne’s The Song Of Achilles are just a couple of recent examples to get you in the mood…
Madeline Miller’s Circe is a bold and clever retelling of the goddess who was banished by Zeus to the remote island of Aiaia, where she harnessed he witchcraft skills.
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and praised by celebrity readers like Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s so good that HBO is adapting it for a miniseries.
Buy Circe by Madeline Miller from Bookshop.org, £8.36
The Silence of the Girls
In this The Silence Of The Girls, Pat Barker tells the powerful story of the Trojan War from the point of view of Briseis, a queen who was enslaved by Achilles after he butchered her husband and brothers.
Like Circe, it was also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction
Buy The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker from Bookshop.org for £8.36
Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad was part of the first set of books in the Canongate Myth Series, where contemporary authors rewrote ancient myths. It is written from the stance of Penelope, who reminisces on the events of the Odyssey, life in Hades, Odysseus, Helen of Troy, and her relationships with her parents.
But The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood from Bookshop.org for £9.29
A Thousand Ships
In A Thousand Ships, Natalie Haynes tells the story of horrifying events around the Trojan War from the different perspectives of the women involved. As said on the cover, “This is a women’s war”.
Buy A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes from Bookshop.org for £8.36
Jennifer Saint gives voice to the women of Theseus and the Minotaur with her debut, Ariadne. As princess of Crete and daughter of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne grows up hearing the sounds of the Minotaur from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, as well as getting the attention of the gods.
Buy Ariadne by Jennifer Saint from Bookshop.org for £13.94
The Song Of Achilles
Before Circe, Madeline Miller captured imaginations with The Song Of Achilles. An adaptation of Homer’s Iliad as told from the perspective of Patroclus, it tells the story of his love for the infamous warrior Achilles.
Buy The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller from Bookshop.org for £9.29
Bringing Greek legends into the modern world, Alex Michaelides’s The Maidens is a thriller which weaves together Greek mythology, psychology, and murder.
It tells the story of a handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Edward Fosca, who therapist Mariana Andros is convinced is a murderer.
Buy The Maidens by Alex Michaelides from Bookshop.org for £13.94
Following A Thousand Ships, Natalie Hayne revisited the women of Greek myth revisited and reassessed in Pandora’s Jar. Taking Pandora and her jar (the box came later) as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk.
Buy Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes from Bookshop.org for £18.60
Donna Tartt’s The Secret History follows a group of wealthy students at a liberal-arts college in 1980s Vermont, who study ancient Greek under the tutelage of a enigmatic classics professor Julian Morrow. They are so obsessed with the power of these myths that they literally find themselves in a modern Greek tragedy.
Buy The Secret History by Donna Tartt from Bookshop.org for £8.36
Images: courtesy of publishers
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