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Greek myths retold

30th January 2024
Greek myths retold

Greek myths may be ancient but their stories and characters are timeless. They delve into every corner of the human experience, with sweeping sagas set across magical realms.  

The retelling of myths has become increasing popular over the last few years, with many 21st-century authors bringing the voices of women, in particular, to the forefront. On this list we've gathered eight novels that explore Greek myths in new ways, giving these classic tales a fresh perspective. Click the titles to reserve them today!

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1. Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman

A pure pleasure of a novel set in Georgian London, where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations and romance.

London, 1799. Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents' famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle's suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young antiquarian scholar. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore the shop to its former glory, and to escape her nefarious uncle.

But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realise that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason.

 

2. Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Medusa is the only mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her sisters, she quickly realizes that she is the only one who gets older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.

When, in Athene's temple, desire pushes Poseidon to commit the unforgivable, Medusa's mortal life is changed forever. Athene, furious at the sacrilege committed, directs her revenge on Medusa. The punishment is that she is turned into a Gorgon: sharp teeth, snakes for hair, and a gaze that will turn any living creature to stone. Appalled by her own reflection, Medusa can no longer look upon anything she loves without destroying it. She condemns herself to a life of solitude in the shadows to limit her murderous range.

That is, until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon... This is the story of how a young woman became a monster. And how she was never really a monster at all.

Why not also try A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

3. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

When her city falls to the Greeks, Briseis's old life is shattered. She is transformed from queen to captive, from free woman to slave, awarded to the god-like warrior Achilles as a prize of war. And she's not alone: on the same day, and on many others in the course of a long and bitter war, innumerable women have been wrested from their homes and flung to the fighters.

Wrestling the epic drama of the Trojan War away from its usual male-centric gaze, The Silence of the Girls seeks out the other story, the women’s story, charting the journey of a sometime-queen across the chaos of history, seeking freedom and the right to be author of her own story.

Why not also try The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

 

4. Circe by Madeline Miller

Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year 2018. Circe is the daughter of Helios, God of the Sun, and Perse, an Oceanid nymph. Despite her divinity, she is less beautiful and lacks the skills of her siblings, so she is largely shunned and ridiculed among the godly.

When she falls in love with a mortal who, of course, is fated to age and die, she is desperate enough to experiment with a different and illicit type of power -- potions and witchcraft, and with it she discovers her own ability to bend the world to her will.

Why not also try The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

 

5. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Penelope. Immortalised in legend and myth as the devoted wife of the glorious Odysseus, silently weaving and unpicking and weaving again as she waits for her husband's return.

Now Penelope wanders the underworld, spinning a different kind of thread: her own side of the story - a tale of lust, greed and murder.

The Myths series brings together some of the world's finest writers, each of whom has retold a myth in a contemporary and memorable way. Authors in the series include Karen Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt, David Grossman, Natsuo Kirino, Alexander McCall Smith, Philip Pullman, Ali Smith and Jeanette Winterson.

6. Atalanta by Jennifer Saint

When a daughter is born to the King of Arcadia, she brings only disappointment. Left exposed on a mountainside, the defenceless infant Atalanta, is left to the mercy of a passing mother bear and raised alongside the cubs under the protective eye of the goddess Artemis.

Swearing that she will prove her worth alongside the famed heroes of Greece, Atalanta leaves her forest to join Jason's band of Argonauts. But can she carve out her own place in the legends in a world made for men?

Why not also try Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

 

7. Ithaca by Claire North

Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the isle of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom.

Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door. No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus's empty throne - not yet. But as everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war.

Why not also try House of Odysseus by Claire North

 

8. House of Names by Colm Tóibín

On the day of his daughter's wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice.

His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with glorious victory. Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family - mother, brother, sister - on a path of intimate violence, as they enter a world of hushed commands and soundless journeys through the palace's dungeons and bedchambers.

As his wife seeks his death, his daughter, Electra, is the silent observer to the family's game of innocence while his son, Orestes, is sent into bewildering, frightening exile where survival is far from certain. Out of their desolating loss, Electra and Orestes must find a way to right these wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act.