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In many situations, perspective is everything. We can choose to see someone's actions as a result of something we did, or as a result of something going on with them. We can choose to see someone's bad behavior as them having a bad day and/or struggling with hard things, or we can choose to think they are a jerk and/or that they purposefully decided to hurt us. The stories we tell ourselves about the reasons behind actions influence our reactions.
And, as Winston Churchill stated "history is written by the victors". So it is also important to consider the source of any story one hears. Lately quite a few books that have made it off our "to be read stack" actively set out to highlight the importance of point of view as they rewrite Greek myths from the standpoint of someone we don't normally hear from in traditional tellings of myths. We review two of these books below.
Stone Blind by Nathalie Haynes (2023). This is Haynes's third novel based on myths, and somehow the first one we have read. In it, Haynes retells the story of Medusa, the youngest of the Gorgon sisters and the only mortal among them. When Medusa's beauty attracts the attention of Poseidon, he assaults her in Athena's temple. And, because of course she does, Athena takes out her rage that her temple was defiled on Medusa - giving her snakes for hair, blindness, and the ability to turn all she "gazes" upon into stone. Haynes retells the myths involving Medusa, her sisters, Perseus, Cassiopeia, and others in short chapters written from many points of view. We think Ebony Purks of INDIEbound reviewed this novel best -- “Stone Blind offers Medusa deserved sympathy, and asks: What makes a monster, and on whose authority? What does it mean to to have your authority stripped? And what does it look like when old stories get reclaimed through a little empathy?” Enjoy.
Circe by Madeline Miller (2019). According to Greek myths, Circe was banished to a deserted island by Zeus due to her ability, through her witchcraft, to transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods. But the best planned punishments go awry and islands receive unexpected visitors. Eventually after crossing paths with many mythical heroes, Circe draws the ire of both men and gods. Miller recreates Circe's story from Circe's perspective - not those of the heores and gods she encounters and in doing so Miller creates a page-turning epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss. This is a tale that will have you rethinking what makes a hero/heroine, and why perspectives matter.