Review of Mythos

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold

With all due respect to the author, who I have great respect for, this is not a ‘read’ for me. Unfortunately, it remains a consult. Stephen Fry relates the multitude of tales (and there are of course so many more) in a free, ribald, fresh and engaging style. Full marks for that. One even gets to feel the various characters of a variety of the Greek gods through the stories well told. That is the strength of the book/collection.
As Fry notes he has tried to pull these together in some form of readable and approachable narrative. I am not sure that he succeeds in this – at least for me. This book simply tries to do too much and to tell too many stories. Although after working ones’ way through you do have a sense of the upper capriciousness of the various Gods (by and large) and in this one gets a wonderful picture of how the culture of the time sought to make sense of the world around it, but there are just too many names, stories, tales, and details for my simple mind. It is great to be able to fill in blanks in one’s classical education and to discover the inspiration for some many aspects of our own cultural sense-making and sources of allusion. However, as a single work, I was severely challenged to digest this as a literary meal. I have a very strong sense that if I were to turn to this on occasion and pull out a story to savour and enjoy and then put the book down again it could truly be appreciated. As a compendium, it is well constructed, exhaustive and particularly well told, but as a single interlaced tale to be enjoyed, I think it will challenge many readers.
I am reminded of Gaiman’s Norse Mythology in which he honestly admits he has chosen a couple of good stories involving a small subset of the gods from the Norse pantheon and presented a thoroughly enjoyable and highly digestible read. This was more to my liking, but in this, I freely expect that this is personal and individual. Fry clearly has a deep passion for the Greek gods and has created a wonderful new telling in which you can truly hear the author’s voice.

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