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Literature

New Retellings Highlight Female Voices in Greek Myths

September 14, 2023

As authors continue to mine the rich cultural heritage of Greece for inspiration, this year has seen several new novels retelling Greek myths from the point of view of female characters. Add the following books to your reading list.

‘Stone Blind’ by Natalie Haynes retells the story of Medusa, turning our understanding of the myth on its head. Haynes, a classicist and comedian, brings empathy and nuance to one of the earliest stories in which a woman – injured by a powerful man – is blamed, punished, and turned into a monster for the assault. According to the book’s description, the only mortal in a family of gods, Medusa is the youngest of the Gorgon sisters. Unlike her siblings, Medusa grows older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.

When the sea god Poseidon assaults Medusa in Athene’s temple, the goddess is enraged. Furious over the violation of her sacred space, Athene takes revenge – on the young woman. Punished for Poseidon’s actions, Medusa is forever transformed. Writhing snakes replace her hair and her gaze will turn any living creature to stone. Cursed with the power to destroy all she loves with one look, Medusa condemns herself to a life of solitude – until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon.

‘Clytemnestra’ by Costanza Casati is a debut novel recounting the story of Clytemnestra, the most notorious villainess of the ancient world, and the events that forged her into a legendary queen. Born to a king, Clytemnestra marries a tyrant. She stands by helplessly as he sacrifices their child to placate the gods. She watches him wage war on a foreign shore, and comforts herself with violent thoughts of her own. Set in Ancient Greece, the novel is a tale of power and prophecies, of hatred, love, and of an unforgettable Queen who fiercely dealt out death to those who wronged her.

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati. (Photo: Amazon)

Costanza Casati was born in Texas in 1995, grew up in a village in Northern Italy, and lived in the UK for five years. Before moving to London, she attended a classical Liceo in Italy, where she studied Ancient Greek and Ancient Greek literature for five years. A graduate of the Warwick Writing MA program, where she studied under Sarah Moss, Casati currently works as a freelance journalist and screenwriter. She is passionate about ancient history and wants to make its heroines accessible to the present.

‘Atalanta’ by Jennifer Saint, the bestselling author of Elektra and Ariadne, is a reimagining of the myth of Atalanta, a fierce huntress raised by bears and the only woman in the world’s most famous band of heroes, the Argonauts.

Atalanta by Jennifer Saint. (Photo: Amazon)

When Princess Atalanta is born, a daughter rather than the son her parents hoped for, she is left on a mountainside to die. But even then, she is a survivor. Raised by a mother bear under the protective eye of the goddess Artemis, Atalanta grows up wild and free, with just one condition: if she marries, Artemis warns, it will be her undoing.

Although she loves her beautiful forest home, Atalanta yearns for adventure. When Artemis offers her the chance to fight in her name alongside the Argonauts, the fiercest band of warriors the world has ever seen, Atalanta seizes it. The Argonauts’ quest for the Golden Fleece is filled with impossible challenges, but Atalanta proves herself equal to the men she fights alongside. As she is swept into a passionate affair, in defiance of Artemis’ warning, she begins to question the goddess’s true intentions. Can Atalanta carve out her own legendary place in a world of men, while staying true to her heart?
Full of joy, passion, and adventure, Atalanta is the story of a woman who refuses to be contained. Saint’s retelling places Atalanta in the pantheon of the greatest heroes in Greek mythology, where she belongs.

The books mentioned above are all available in bookstores and online.

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