Top 10 novels inspired by Greek myths | Fiction | The Guardian

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After we consider Greek myths we consider vengeful gods, legendary heroes, sweeping amorous affairs and dastardly deeds. They’re transformative tales which discover the total vary of human expertise so it’s hardly stunning that writers regularly flip to them for inspiration.

Poets similar to Dante and Petrarch have been enthralled by Greek delusion, so too have been Chaucer and Milton. Mary Shelley famously integrated the theme of Prometheus into Frankenstein, and CS Lewis drew on Ovid’s Metamorphoses in his 1956 novel Until We Have Faces. In recent times legendary retellings have been booming, particularly people who convey the position of ladies to the fore – Circe by Madeline Miller was launched in 2018 whereas 2021 noticed debuts similar to Claire Heywood’s Daughters of Sparta and Rosie Hewlett’s Medusa hit the cabinets, and Jennifer Saint’s much-anticipated Elektra is due out later this 12 months.

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However retellings are available in many varieties and guises. In my debut novel Pandora I needed to discover feminine company and the complexities of human nature, all via the richness of a Georgian lens utilizing the parable of Pandora’s field as an anchor. All of the works I’ve chosen have interpreted the Greek myths in numerous methods, however they’re all testomony to how these historical tales have gotten beneath our pores and skin.

1 Home of Names by Colm Tóibín This intricately plotted novel attracts on quite a lot of Greek myths, chief amongst them these present in Aeschylus’s Oresteia. It’s the story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, starting with the brutal sacrifice of their 16-year-old daughter, Iphigenia. A deeply human story of a warring household, the story is steeped in violence and cruelty however Tóibín brings empathy and depth to the characters, providing a nuanced understanding of their anger, worry, hatred and guilt.

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2 Autobiography of Purple by Anne Carson An arresting novel in verse which brings the Greek monster Geryon (who options within the tenth Labour of Heracles) right into a modern-day setting. Drawing on surviving fragments of the lyric poet Stesichorus’s work Geryoneis, this can be a shifting coming-of-age story about love and craving which is whimsical, unhappy, and an enchanting tackle a personality missed in favour of the larger-than-life man who slayed him.

3 Ulysses by James JoyceHomer’s epic poem the Odyssey is reimagined in 1900s Dublin, chronicling in minute element a single day within the lifetime of Leopold Bloom, his pal Stephen Dedalus and his long-suffering spouse Molly. An epic work in its personal proper, the novel is split into episodes that roughly correspond to these within the unique poem. It’s each sensible and infuriating in its sheer scale and narrative styling, and one of many best literary achievements of the twentieth century.

Ali Smith. {Photograph}: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

4 Woman Meets Boy by Ali Smith The parable of Iphis and Ianthe is a type of uncommon Greek myths that ends fortunately. The story is advised in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the place a woman is raised as a boy to keep away from her father’s wrath and falls in love with one other lady. Later, her gender is modified by the goddess Isis, permitting them to marry. Smith takes this story into modern-day Inverness within the guise of Anthea and Robin, and offers with gender, transformation and acceptance of self. It’s a small e book at solely 176 pages however it’s vibrant, joyful, humorous and poetic.

5 The Silence of the Women by Pat Barker This critically acclaimed novel is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad, advised from the attitude of Briseis, a Trojan queen who’s captured and compelled to change into the concubine of Achilles. It’s a courageous, highly effective story about survival and resilience, which by no means shies away from the horrors of battle and the cruelty girls suffered by the hands of their enslavers. There are harrowing scenes together with baby homicide, gang rape and suicide making it a ruthless story, however one which shouldn’t be ignored.

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6 An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma One other reinterpretation of the Odyssey. Obioma tackles the parable by lifting it out of Historic Greece and into Umuahia, Nigeria. When younger poultry farmer Chinonso sees a lady about to leap off a bridge his entire life is ready astray, and the aftermath of this occasion takes him additional and additional away from his desires. Advised from the attitude of Chinonso’s “chi” (a guardian spirit of Igbo cosmology), this novel is not like some other. It’s a thought-provoking and difficult story exploring themes of affection and sacrifice, vulnerability and misfortune, and the unyielding energy of destiny.

Natalie Haynes. {Photograph}: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

7 A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes Broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes brilliantly retells the story of the Trojan battle from an all-female perspective. She presents a kaleidoscopic view of the battle and the ladies concerned in a collection of episodes narrated by Calliope, the Greek muse of epic poetry. A contemporary tackle the Iliad brimming with wit and environment.

8 The Big Darkish by Sarvat Hasin Loosely impressed by the parable of Orpheus and Eurydice, this can be a genre-bending novel which centres on rock star Aida, who finds herself trapped in a harmful love affair. The novel is break up into two elements in homage to the parable’s thematic origins, and echoes the unique’s message concerning the risks of utilizing a lover as a muse. A completely unique story that explores themes of jealousy, trauma and the crippling results of fame with visceral panache.

9 The Maidens by Alex MichaelidesDarkish academia meets Greek delusion on this literary thriller set at Cambridge College. The story follows Mariana Andros who returns to her alma mater after her niece’s pal is murdered. Mariana suspects that charismatic classics professor Edward Fosca is accountable, and that the lady’s demise is linked to a secret society of younger feminine college students referred to as The Maidens, named after Persephone, the goddess of demise. It’s a twisty story, with a lot of purple herrings to maintain you guessing, that can also be a intelligent tribute to Greek tragedy.

10 Ariadne by Jennifer Saint This story of Ariadne, princess of Crete and daughter of King Minos, reimagines the basic story of Theseus and the Minotaur. It’s the compelling story of her entire life moderately than one occasion in it, and by widening the reader’s perspective we’re skilfully given an perception not simply into the novel’s fascinating heroine however the tales of different girls similar to Medusa, Semele, Pasiphaë and Phaedra. The boys, too, are properly drawn, permitting for a deeper perception into why they act as they do with out excusing their failings. Ariadne’s relationship with Dionysus is fascinating and the alternate perspective of Theseus a refreshing absorb gentle of previous misogynistic retellings. Fantastically written and totally immersive.

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