Canons: The Myths

I was lucky enough to receive ‘The Myths’ from Canongate, and the moment they arrived I fell in love! The covers are just beautiful, and I love how they are all similar but also reflect the main theme’s or characters of each book. The premise of ‘The Myths’ is for contemporary authors to retell classic myths, and I was so excited to get started. So here’s what I thought of all six of the books … Enjoy!

‘A Short History of Myth’ by Karen Armstrong

2 out of 5 stars

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‘As long as we have been human, we have been mythmakers. In A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong holds up the mirror of mythology to show us the history of ourselves, and embarks on a journey that begins at a Neanderthal graveside and ends buried in the heart of the modern novel’.

Unfortunately I found this book boring.  It felt very essay like, reporting the stories of all of the myths. I get that you have to have an understanding of the myths before you go into the others, but I felt it would have been better to write short summaries at the start of each book! I’m sure some people would have liked this, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

‘The Penelopiad’ by Margaret Atwood

3.5 out of 5 stars

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‘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’.

I really liked this book – I was so relieved, after reading the first book I wasn’t sure If these books were for me, but this book restored my faith. The story of the odyssey is retold in the perspective of Penelope, the previously assumed doting wife who waits years for her husband to return from the war. The story covers what she gets up to while Odysseus is away, giving a voice to a previously minor character.

‘Weight’ by Jeannette Winterson

4.5 out of 5 stars

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‘Condemned to shoulder the world forever by the gods he dared defy, freedom seems unattainable to Atlas. But then he receives an unexpected visit from Heracles, the one man strong enough to share the burden …’

This was definitely my favourite of the six books! It retells the story of Atlas, who has been condemned to hold up the universe for the rest of eternity. One day Atlas is approached by Heracles, who asks him to complete a simple task, and in return he will hold up the world until he returns. The plot covers important themes, such as fate vs. choice, good vs. bad, and burden vs. blessing, and almost every single line is filled with emotion or symbolism! I loved it. I would 100% recommend this to anyone. Looking at the reviews on goodreads it seems some people think quite the opposite to me, but I guess that’s the beauty of books; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and this really was a treasure to me! This is a book I won’t forget about!

‘Girl Meets Boy’ by Ali Smith

4 out of 5 stars

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‘Girl meets boy. It’s a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets a brand new set of circumstances? Ali Smith’s remix of Ovid’s most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can’t be bottled and sold. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations. Funny and fresh, poetic and political, here is a tale of change for the modern world.’

I loved this book! It’s set in the present day, following two sisters; Andrea, who has fallen for another girl, and her sister Imogen, who finds it hard to come to terms with. While the majority of the plot is set in the present day, the mirroring and the exploration of the plot of Metamorphoses is evident throughout. This book deals with big issues that face us on almost a daily basis; sexuality, discrimination; diversity; commercialism; feminism; and identity. Similar to Weight, this book will not leave you, and the impact of the message behind it still stays with me now; especially the statistics which Smith received from Womankind (a UK charity). If your interested in books about feminism, sexuality, and spreading the message of injustice then give this book a go – I promise you won’t be disappointed!

‘Lion’s Honey: The Myth of Samson’ by David Grossman

2 out of 5 stars

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‘In exhilarating and lucid prose, Grossman gives us a provocative new take on the story of Samson: his battle with the lion, the three hundred burning foxes, the women he bedded, the one he loved and who betrayed him and the destruction of the temple. It reveals the journey of a lonely and tortured soul, whose search for a true home echoes our own private struggles.’

This was definitely a book that disappointed me! I researched the biblical story of Samson and the lion and was intrigued by the story and how Grossman was going to retell it! However, when I started reading it I was disappointed. It felt more of an essay than a book, and the story didn’t really differ from the one I’d previously researched. The main narrator of ‘Lion’s honey’ is Grossman himself, and I think this is the first factor that unsettled me with this book. He was also way too opinionated for my liking – I felt like I was being told what to think/ how to interpret the story. For me, as a reader I enjoy interpreting the story and events that unfold myself – I like making up my own mind! For this reason I didn’t like this book. I get that Grossman wanted to present his interpretation of the story, but going into detail about what each character was probably thinking or feeling felt too pushy for me, and I would have preferred a retelling of this story. This might be something you readers like in a narrator, and if so then give this book a go (and let me know what you think), but if you’re anything like me and place quite a big importance on your own interpretation of books then you probably won’t enjoy this book either.

‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’ by Phillip Pullman

3.5 out of 5 stars

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‘This is the story of two brothers. One is impassioned and one reserved. One is destined to go down in history and the other to be forgotten. In Pullman’s hands, this sacred tale is reborn as one of the most enchanting, thrilling and visionary stories of recent years.’

‘The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ’ was such a thought provoking book –  It was a really enjoyable read. In Pullman’s retelling Jesus and Christ are two seperate individuals who are brothers, and are very much polar opposites. The story follows Christ as he follows his brother who travels and preaches to his followers, documenting the parables he preaches, changing details that Christ thinks would make Jesus, and his preachings in general, look unfavourable. Throughout the book Christ’s adoration and devotion to his brother begins to crumble as he questions what his brother’s preachings become and whether God would truly speak those words through Jesus. I don’t want to give away anymore of the book because it’s brilliant, but it definitely raises a lot of important questions. Specifically, is modern day Christianity something that God would be proud of? Or has it evolved so much from his previous teachings (whether real or not) that it bears no resemblance? This book is thought provoking, and a real question raiser – regardless as to whether your a devout christian or a true atheist this book is good!

Have you read any of the myths? Let me know what you thought in the comments below! Would love to know if you felt the same way or if you thought the complete opposite!

Amy XOXO

*photos provided by Canongate

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