Review by

Stone Blind

Hugely enjoyable visit to the fickle world of the Greek Gods

An amusing journey into the world of Greek gods and semi-gods has been the highlight of my holiday reading this Christmas. Stone Blind by Natalie Hayes is frivolous fun and a welcome distraction from family gatherings and dishwasher emptying. Hayes, a respected classicist whose mission it is to make Greek myths accessible and entertaining, takes a closer look at the infamous snake-headed Medusa and her lethal stare. Was she really as bad as her reputation? Why did her stare turn people into stone? And how did she end up with snakes as hair anyway?

Hayes weaves together stories and gods we have heard of but perhaps not quite remember. How was Zeus related to Athene? Who were the Gorgons? Why did Perseus end up in Ethiopia? The world of the Greek gods is definitely one you wouldn’t want to inhabit, full as it is of intrigue, backstabbing, jealousy and vanity. Hayes has fun in mocking them all and takes particular pleasure in exposing Perseus as a clueless and petulant coward who ends up as a hero through no fault of his own.

It’s mostly the female gods and semi-gods who pay the price, either by being raped by erratic gods and, in Medusa’s case, by being the weapon with which Perseus claims his hero status. The women are by no means all saints themselves, though. Cassiope, Queen of Ethiopia and a mythical beauty, spends her days staring at her own reflection, only taking breaks to force her daughter into a marriage that solely benefits the queen herself. Or haughty Athene whose self-preservation and power hungriness lies behind her every single move.

Hayes writes with humour and playfulness, the often trifling dialogue in delicious contrast to the supposed grandeur of the gods. As a light-hearted escape during this greyest of months, I cannot recommend Stone Blind highly enough.

Stone Blind by Natalie Hayes is published by Mantle, 368 pages.

If you enjoyed Stone Blind, try The Silence of the Girls, Song of Achilles, The Porpoise or Circe

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