I am delighted to share my review today for Pandora’s Jar: Women in Greek the myths by Natalie Haynes. I saw this title on Audible and as I do love hearing about myths from all around the world I decided to give this one a go.
The Greek myths are one of the most important cultural foundation-stones of the modern world.
Stories of gods and monsters are the mainstay of epic poetry and Greek tragedy, from Homer to Virgil to from Aeschylus to Sophocles and Euripides. And still, today, a wealth of novels, plays and films draw their inspiration from stories first told almost three thousand years ago. But modern tellers of Greek myth have usually been men, and have routinely shown little interest in telling women’s stories.
Now, in Pandora’s Jar, Natalie Haynes – broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist – redresses this imbalance. Taking Greek creation myths as her starting point and then retelling the four great mythic sagas: the Trojan War, the Royal House of Thebes, Jason and the Argonauts, Heracles, she puts the female characters on equal footing with their menfolk. The result is a vivid and powerful account of the deeds – and misdeeds – of Hera, Aphrodite, Athene and Circe. And away from the goddesses of Mount Olympus it is Helen, Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Antigone and Medea who sing from these pages, not Paris, Agamemnon, Orestes or Jason.
I do like stories and tales from the times of Ancient Greece. I think it was watching films such as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, then as I got older reading stories and watching documentaries and now listening to audiobooks.
The author brings together her knowledge of this topic and she definitely knows her stuff. She narrates her own book and she has a nice voice to listen to.
She tells of the women that have appeared over time that many of us will already know about, and there are some that I hadn’t heard of. These are ones that have been forgotten about or didn’t have such an important role in history according to more male-dominated figures. As I listened to this book I realised I knew far more male figures from mythology than I did female. The author does suggest that historians such as Aristotle and Socrates and writers such as Ovid are men, so focused more on the strengths, adventures, toils, and victories of their male heroes. Women tended to be scorned rather than revered, and Medusa is a prime example of this, and when I listened further the author went on to tell of how women had been used, abducted and blamed. The author does give a more balanced view of women in history, rather than being the victims they are shown their own rights and show their own strength. The author does use modern references to give a present-day example using songs from pop culture, literature and art.
This is a really interesting book to listen to, there are loads of historical fact and obviously a lot about myths and legends from the days of the Greek heroes. This is a book that provides a good discussion and isn’t one that tries to rewrite history, it does give opinions and thoughts to help bring women into the forefront and away from the patriarchal stereotype. It is one I really enjoyed listening to and one I would happily recommend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Natalie Haynes, author of THE FURIES (THE AMBER FURY in the UK), is a graduate of Cambridge University and an award-winning comedian, journalist, and broadcaster. She judged the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and was a judge for the final Orange Prize in 2012. Natalie was a regular panelist on BBC2’s Newsnight Review, Radio 4’s Saturday Review, and the long-running arts show, Front Row. She is a guest columnist for the The Independent and The Guardian. Her radio series, Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, was first broadcast in March 2014.
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