A huge passion of mine for a few years now has been Greek Mythology. I’ve always loved any kind of mythology but nothing captures my attention as much as Greek mythology. Here I’ve combined two loves – books and mythology to share some of my recommendations with you. Two of these are non-fiction and the rest are fictional retellings. Not included but I’d still definitely recommend The Iliad & The Odyssey but don’t feel like you need to read these in order to understand retellings. I hope you find something you love and if you have any recommendations, please leave them below.
Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold
by Stephen Fry
Imagine coming across a book that isn’t just about Greek Mythology but is also written by one of your favourite people. Can relate. This amazing book is my latest read and it was a full five stars from start to end. I loved reading about the birth of Greek mythology and the gods themselves as we travelled through their (huge) family trees. I read about some of my already-favourites but also met some amazing new characters. We learn how much the ancient Greek language has seeped its way into modern day, both in traditions and language and there are some laugh out loud lines. If that hasn’t convinced you, there are also photos featuring some famous art featured around the tales. I’d definitely recommend this book either to read in one or to switch back and forth between your favourite myths.
by Stephen Fry
Yep, he strikes again. This time with a companion novel to Mythos that I’m yet to read (hello £20 hardback) but I know I will love just as much. This time Stephen delves into even more of our favourite Greek heroes from Jason on his hunt for the Golden Fleece, Atalanta who could outrun any man, Oedipus solving the Sphinx’s riddle and Bellerophon as he attempts to capture Pegasus. Not only do we learn about these heroic figures but we also learn what us mere mortals are made of and how we have been influenced by them.
The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller
One of my favourite books of all time and officially the only book that has made me sob. Literally. This is a retelling of the story of Achilles, the best of the Greeks and his lover, Patroclus. Although the two have always been linked as everything from best friends, brothers and companions, this book shows their journey from friendship to love and of course, how it all ends. We see the Trojan war from their perspective as well as meeting all the other notable figures such as Agamemnon and Odysseus. I’ve read this book around three times and it never ceases to amaze me. Some have criticised it for having the Bury Your Gays trope but? They die in every retelling, whether linked romantically or not.
The Silence of the Girls
by Pat Barker
One thing we’ve always lacked with retellings is having them from the women’s perspective but Pat Barker has changed this by writing the Trojan War through the eyes of Briseis, Achille’s concubine. In this retelling, Achilles is known as ‘The Butcher’ and reading this after TSOA is a bit of a shock but I still love this book. I’m glad we get to see through the eyes of not only Briseis, but also the other women who were taken as slaves during the War and now must serve the men who killed their families. The women were just as present during the war – as nurses, slaves, prostitutes and keepers of the dead but unlike their male counterparts, their voices have been silenced throughout history. Until now. This book is truly a unique perspective into this bloody time.
by Madeline Miller
Madeline really is the Queen of Greek mythology retellings and she doesn’t disappoint with her take on the story of Circe, daughter of the god Helios with the power of witchcraft. Shunned after the use of her powers, Circe is sent to live a life of isolation on her very own island but it is here she hones her craft and must protect herself from people who wish to hurt her. She meets some other well-known characters such as Hermes, Odysseus, the Minotaur, Daedulus and his son, Icarus. It is her famous power of turning men into pigs after they attempt to take advantage of her that was my favourite. Circe is one of the strongest characters who even faces the wrath of Athena and comes out on top. This retelling was as beautiful as ever, the language, the stories and the myth all come together to create what I think will be a classic.
by Margaret Atwood
A book I didn’t even know existed until I came across it in Waterstones during my Margaret Atwood obsession. Another case of one of my favourite authors writing about Greek mythology! This short but sweet book is a retelling of the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus and cousin of Helen of Troy. This is another case of a woman having her story told instead of her husband taking centre stage. During the twenty years her husband is off fighting in the Trojan War, Penelope is a devoted wife but that is all that is known about her according to The Odyssey. In this book, Atwood shows us the trials she faced during this time and the trials of her twelve maids who Odysseus hanged upon his return. We also see Penelope’s thoughts on the modern day world through her place in the Underworld.
The Children of Jocasta
by Natalie Haynes
I am yet to read this book but I’ve heard rave reviews so I definitely wanted to include it. Again, a female author comes to our rescue by writing the tale of Oedipus and Antigone but through the eyes of the women who were always overshadowed by their male counterparts. Fifteen year old Jocasta is told she must marry the King of Thebes despite never having met him. The only way for her life to be her own is if she outlives her new husband. Our second character is Ismene who is introduced when she is attacked in her own palace. Being an orphan, she has always yearned to feel safe with the family she still has but this act of violence changes everything. As these two tragic events occur, history is changed forever but not in the way we expect it…
Lots of Love,