This retelling of the story of Medusa and Perseus makes you see it through fresh eyes, leaving you wondering what is beauty and what a monster truly is.
Natalie Haynes is so good at challenging are perceptions of characters in Greek mythology, not only transforming perspectives from the Trojan War through 1000 Ships that put an emphasis on the women caught up unwittingly in this so called heroic war and frank analysation of the women of Greek mythology as we saw in Pandora’s Jar. Now she confronts readers about the story of Medusa, the unexpected family she grew up with who loved her and the brutal way in which her life was taken from her.
From the first page I was hooked on the way in which the story has been structured, weaving readers between the world of the Gods, the gorgons and mortals such as the selfish and (let’s be honest) irritating and hapless Perseus as he goes on a quest to help prevent his mother from marrying an arrogant king. Each perspective the reader is given is richly detailed and you feel as though you are in this mythical world that has been written with a contemporary eye for detail.
Meanwhile, the voices themselves are also intriguing and well rounded – at times there is a sense of cynicism and pragmatism but then in others (particularly in the sections that involve the gods) a sense of humour and warmth that makes it compelling to read. This approach in tone is intriguing on so many levels as the book challenges the reader to think what really makes a hero and who is really the monster. Equally, it makes you wonder what true beauty is – is it something that depends on our outlook and life and how open minded we are – beauty is not always what we expect is what I certainly take away from this story.
As always Natalie Haynes is extraordinarily gifted in the way in which she brings these stories to life. There is great detail and insight as well as sympathy for the central character throughout this excellently written book that draws the reader from the very first page. Nothing is exaggerated or overblown, it is a very straight talking novel that keeps it accessible to everybody – whether you are familiar with the myth or not, while also humanising the characters with all their flaws.
It never outstays its welcome and the plot is tight and consistent changing the tone and voice at just the right point to ensure that the reader is able to stay engaged with how the story is unfolding. Whether you are new to Greek mythology or not , this book rights many of the wrongs that writers have done to Medusa over the years in retellings of her story. A fabulous read.
By Emma Clarendon
Stone Blind is available to buy now.