‘So to mortal men we are monsters.
Because of our flight, our strength.
They fear us, so they call us monsters.’
Medusa is the only mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her sisters, she quickly realizes that she is the only one who gets older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.
When the sea god, Poseidon, commits an unforgivable act in her sacred temple, the goddess, Athene, takes her revenge on an innocent – and Medusa’s life is changed forever. Appalled by her own reflection: snakes have replaced her hair and she realises that her gaze can now turn any living creature to stone. Medusa can no longer look upon anything she loves without destroying it, and so condemns herself to a life lived in shadow and solitude to limit her murderous rage.
That is, until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon…
Firstly, huge thanks to Emma at Bookbreak for my early proof copy of Stone Blind, to say I was excited is an understatement. Greek mythology is a relatively new genre for me, introduced by a friend to The Silence of the Girls, it has fast become a favourite book category of choice. I loved A Thousand Ships and the way the women were centre stage and I think with Stone Blind and the story of Medusa the author has does something similar again here.
I can’t claim to know much about Medusa, except that she had a head of snakes and if she looked at you she could turn you to stone.
This is the story of how a young woman became a monster.
And how she was never really a monster at all.
But this book was enlightening; broad in it’s narrative, the author skipped no detail in describing how Medusa came to being, who she was and her famous fate. And that made it an epic read. In telling this story, Son of Zeus, Perseus’ life is covered, significant in his defeat of Medusa, born out of a challenge to protect his mother. And Medusa, a victim of fate whose legacy lives on, instilling fear in the heart. The reality, as told by Natalie Haynes is somewhat different, describing a girl who is blamed and punished for things out of her control, for the acts of others, the acts of men.
Like A Thousand Ships (hit the link to read my review) the chapters are determined by character and the story moves through as the events unfold with a key character, so Medusa has a number of chapters dedicated to her as does Goddess Athene, but we also meet the Graiai, the Hesperides and mortals including Danae, Cassiope and Andromeda. And we learn how their lives and their stories all interlink. This makes for a broad and sweeping read, rich in detail and totally absorbing.
A List of Characters at the start of the book is useful and I did find myself referring back to this throughout. I love Greek Mythology and I enjoy the stories that place the women centre stage, this book was everything I hoped it would be – that is to say I loved it and I don’t think any fans of this genre will be disappointed. Indeed I would encourage anyone to pick this one up – it is accessible, it doesn’t require pre knowledge – the author does an excellent job in explaining who is who and as such I think has written a superb retelling which should hold wide appeal.
About the Author
Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster. She is the author of The Amber Fury, which was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize: The Children of Jocasta, a feminist retelling of the Oedipus and Antigone stories: and two non-fiction books, The Ancient Guide to Modern Life and Pandora’s Jar.
She has written and presented seven series of the BBC Radio 4 show, Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics. In 2015, she was awarded the Classical Association Prize for her work in bringing Classics to a wider audience.
Her third novel, A Thousand Ships, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. Stone Blind is her fourth novel.