Once a Monster by Robert Dinsdale
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
4M ago
Novels inspired by Greek mythology seem to have become very popular in recent years, but Robert Dinsdale’s new book, Once a Monster, is something slightly different. More reimagining than retelling, it’s set in Victorian London and owes as much to Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist as it does to Greek myth. Ten-year-old Nell Hart is a mudlark, one of a small group of children, orphaned or otherwise neglected and vulnerable, who spend their days searching through the mud of the River Thames for ‘treasures’ – pieces of coal or iron – to give to their master, Benjamin Murdstone. It’s a difficult life ..read more
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Savage Beasts by Rani Selvarajah
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
10M ago
The Greek myth of Medea is transposed to 18th century India in Rani Selvarajah’s debut novel, Savage Beasts. Although I haven’t read very much about Medea – except where she has appeared as a secondary character in other novels I’ve read, such as Madeline Miller’s Circe – it was actually the Indian setting that attracted me to this book rather than the Greek myth aspect and I expect it will have equal appeal to readers of historical fiction and those who enjoy mythology retellings. The novel opens in 1757 in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata). The East India Company, under the leadership of Sir ..read more
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Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
1y ago
There are so many Greek mythology retellings around at the moment I thought this one might be too similar to others I’ve read recently (particularly Jennifer Saint’s Elektra) – but I needn’t have worried. With Clytemnestra, Costanza Casati makes a familiar story feel fresh and different, and as a debut novel it’s quite impressive. Clytemnestra, Helen of Troy’s sister, is most often remembered as the wife of Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae who sacrifices their daughter Iphigenia to summon a wind so he can sail off to join the Trojan War. The heartbroken Clytemnestra takes her revenge on Agamemn ..read more
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The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
1y ago
I was drawn to this book by the pretty cover, but also because it sounded similar to Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, which I loved. Set in 16th century Russia, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, The Witch and the Tsar is a blend of history, fantasy and folklore featuring as its heroine the legendary Baba Yaga. Unlike the traditional idea of Baba Yaga as a ferocious old witch who eats children, however, Moscow-born author Olesya Salnikova Gilmore’s portrayal is something very different. We first meet Yaga, as she is known, living alone in a forest with her wolf Dyen, owl Noch, and L ..read more
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Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
1y ago
There have been several novels published recently retelling Greek myths from a feminine perspective; this is another – and one that I really enjoyed. As the title suggests, it’s the story of Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos and Queen Pasiphaë of Crete, but it’s also the story of another woman, her younger sister Phaedra. As two princesses of Crete, Ariadne and Phaedra grow up in the comfort of the palace at Knossos, but their brother Asterion is not so lucky. Born half man and half bull, he has become known as the Minotaur and banished to the underground labyrinth designed by Daedalus. Eac ..read more
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Recent reads: The Drums of War; Ashes in the Snow; Ithaca
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
1y ago
I’m falling behind with my reviews again, so here are my thoughts on three recent reads – all very different books. The Drums of War is the third in Michael Ward’s Thomas Tallant mystery series, continuing the story begun in Rags of Time and The Wrecking Storm. It also works as a standalone novel, so don’t worry if you haven’t read the first two in the series. This third novel opens in London in 1642. With the divisions between King and Parliament becoming greater, England is rapidly heading towards Civil War and spice merchant Thomas Tallant and his friends are being forced to choose sides ..read more
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Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
1y ago
The next book I’ve read for this year’s R.I.P. XVII event is a fascinating and unusual collection of Japanese short stories, first published in 1904. The writer and translator Lafcadio Hearn was born in Greece and raised in Ireland, before later settling in Japan where he began to collect Japanese legends and folktales which he translated into English. Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things contains seventeen of these tales, as well as three essays on insects – one on butterflies, one on mosquitoes and one on ants. These mainly focus on the role of the insects in Japanese and Chinese ..read more
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Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
1y ago
It’s always good to come across a Greek mythology retelling that has nothing to do with the Trojan War! There have been so many over the last few years (Natalie Haynes’ A Thousand Ships being one of the best I’ve read) that it makes a refreshing change to read about other characters and other myths. Stone Blind is subtitled Medusa’s Story but is actually written from the perspectives of many different characters, all coming together to tell the tale of the Gorgon Medusa and Perseus’ quest to capture her head. In traditional accounts of this myth, Perseus is seen as the hero, bravely slaying t ..read more
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The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
1y ago
I wanted to join in with this year’s Margaret Atwood Reading Month (hosted by Buried in Print) but knew I wouldn’t have time for one of her longer novels; The Penelopiad, at 199 pages, seemed the perfect choice as it would also count for the Novellas in November event (hosted by 746 Books and Bookish Beck). The Penelopiad was published in 2005 as part of the Canongate Myths series, of which I’ve previously read Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić and Ragnarok by AS Byatt. It’s a retelling of the events of the Odyssey from the perspectives of Penelope and the twelve maids who were hanged ..read more
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The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
She Reads Novels » Mythology
by Helen
1y ago
After reading Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls a few years ago, I wasn’t really expecting a sequel, but here it is: The Women of Troy. I’m sure if you wanted to you could read this one as a standalone, but I would recommend reading both as this is a direct continuation of the first. Together, the two novels tell the story of the Trojan War and its aftermath. The Silence of the Girls was based on the events of Homer’s Iliad; this second novel is set after the fall of Troy, when the victorious Greek invaders are stranded on the shore, waiting for the winds to change so that their ships can ..read more
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