Wednesday, April 13, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

I loved Natalie Haynes’ novel of the women (and goddesses) of the Trojan War, A Thousand Ships. So when I saw she’d written a nonfiction exploration of a similar topic, Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, I wanted to read it as well.

Haynes is an authority on Greek myths, particularly the women in the tales. This new work looks at Pandora, Jocasta, Helen, Medusa, the Amazons, Clytemnestra, Eurydice, Phaedra, Medea, and Penelope and how they have been viewed through the ages. The earliest appearances of these women (whether human, goddess, monster, or some combination) are often quite different from the versions we have come to know through later--even modern--representations. I was a bit surprised to learn that the early Greek renderings were often less misogynistic than more recent versions. The variations in the stories are fascinating and the reasoning behind the changes are complex. Haynes traces the evolution of the various tales and offers insight into how we’ve come to settle on particular versions, as well as why the stories are destined to continually change.

Haynes has a great deal of empathy for the characters. She writes clearly, with great understanding and with wit. I have always enjoyed retellings of the old myths and I equally enjoyed this analysis. 

I recommend reading Pandora’s Jar and A Thousand Ships in tandem.

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