Ancient myths and legends have been passed down for thousands of years. These stories fascinate us with their compelling mix of epic adventure, intriguing mystery and lurking, sinister evil.
In recent years, a number of books that tell the unheard stories of mythological characters have become huge bestsellers, adored by critics and readers alike. Read on for our edit of some of the best retellings of Greek mythology that provide new insights into the stories we thought we knew so well.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
The Siege of Troy is perhaps the best known of the Greek myths. For ten long years, the Greeks waged a brutal war against the city of Troy as revenge for the kidnap of Helen, the beautiful wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta. This story has been told many times, but most often through the eyes of men. Natalie Haynes’s A Thousand Ships tells this story from an all-female perspective, giving a rich and layered voice to the many women, girls and even goddesses who have often been unheard.
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Oreo by Fran Ross
Oreo is a playful retelling of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur with a feminist twist. In the epic legend, Theseus must make his way through the complex labyrinth to find and defeat the Minotaur, fulfilling his destiny. Fran Ross’s hero, who shares her name with the book’s title, is on a quest to find her father who vanished when she was just a baby, leaving behind a mysterious note. As Oreo searches for her father in the labyrinth of Manhatten, her journey becomes one of self-discovery and she is able to break free of the myths that have always constrained her.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe, a powerful enchantress, is well known for her part in The Odyssey, the story of Odysseus and his long and difficult journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. But, in Madeleine Miller’s latest book, Circe, the formidable Witch of Aiaia is no longer just a character in someone else’s story . . . The book takes us through Circe’s beginnings as an outcast teenager struggling with her powers, to her transformation into a strong and independent woman who must fight to protect herself and that which she holds dear.
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood’s incredible novella, The Penelopiad, follows the story of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who is left alone in Ithaca when he goes to war. In the book, Penelope finally gets the chance to tell her side of the story, revealing the truth behind some of Odysseus’s greatest heroic triumphs and the reality of her long wait for his return. In The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood expertly shows us the double standards between the genders and the importance of perspective.
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The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes
In this book, Natalie Haynes reimagines another ancient myth - that of Oedipus and Antigone. Upon his birth, Oedipus is destined for a tragic fate: to murder his father and unknowingly marry his own mother, Jocasta. Their daughter, Antigone, is horrified upon discovering the truth and decides to take her own life. The Children of Jocasta is split between the voice of Jocasta and that of her other daughter Ismene, giving new perspective to the well-known myth.
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The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
The critically-acclaimed The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Siege of Troy, told from the perspective of just one woman, Briseis, a Trojan Queen who is captured by the Greek army and forced to become a bed-slave to Achilles. In this story, Pat Barker focuses on the experience of women through the war, showing us the extent of their loss, the depth of their courage and bravery, and the strength of their connection to one another.
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The Odyssey by Homer
Of course, the reason many myths and legends have endured for centuries is our love of epic adventures, and Homer’s The Odyssey is perhaps the greatest adventure of them all. Here, in our Macmillan Collectors edition, discover the T. E. Lawrence translation of the text, credited as the first to be both faithful to the original and accessible for the modern reader.
Buy The Odyssey
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