When I saw this book featured by Audible, it was a no-brainer. I’m still spinning out the major work (76 listening hours) of Stephen Fry’s narration of the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes – the man could make the telephone directory compulsive listening. As an early fan of Greek mythology, I was sure this would make marvellous listening – and I wasn’t wrong…
The Greek myths are the greatest stories ever told, passed down through millennia and inspiring writers and artists as varied as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, James Joyce and Walt Disney. They are embedded deeply in the traditions, tales and cultural DNA of the West. In Stephen Fry’s hands the stories of the titans and gods become a brilliantly entertaining account of ribaldry and revelry, warfare and worship, debauchery, love affairs and life lessons, slayings and suicides, triumphs and tragedies.
Yep. All of the above. In a chatty, unthreatening manner, Fry charts the doings of those Greek gods, from the violent beginnings in the creation stories, to the establishment of the pantheon and on into the creation of mortals. Throughout, in addition to telling the stories, Fry ensures we also understand how the names of various gods, goddesses, demi-gods, muses and nymphs has impacted upon our language, by pointing out the words that have sprung up around the various names, as well as giving the Roman versions. I also liked how he not only mentions classical power couples – but also cites Kim and Kanye West…
Just a warning for those of you with small people in your household – these stories contain a lot of violence and death. So I’d advise you to listen through this alone to decide whether it would make suitable family listening on a long car journey, for instance. I certainly wouldn’t be happy for my nine-year-old grandson to hear many of the stories as they would raise far too many awkward questions around sexual violence that I wouldn’t want to answer at this stage in his development. Those conversations and decisions need to be directed by his parents, not me.
I was also struck at how few of the stories ended happily. Most seem to be warning mortals not to be too boastful – or too good at anything. And whatever you do, receive wandering, scruffy strangers into your home and treat them well – oh, and ideally, don’t be too beautiful – that rarely ended well if you happened to take the fancy of a god, or goddess, especially Zeus. What I especially enjoyed was how Fry is at pains to depict the ongoing consequences of a particular event – even if you, the listener, may have lost track of exactly who this new character is, if he or she is related to a former protagonist, he points it out, joining up the dots.
All in all, this is an outstanding book – and I am warmly convinced that actually hearing it is by far the best way to experience all those complicated Greek names and torrid stories. This is probably one that I shall want to hear again – something I very rarely ever do – because there is just so much richness and depth of perspective that I am sure that while decorating the bathroom, I lost track of some of those nuances. Highly recommended for anyone with any kind of curiosity about some of the linguistic, moral and cultural beginnings of Western civilisation.
This sounds fascinating, and it’s nice to know how highly you think of Fry as a narrator. I’ll keep that in mind😁
He is awesome! He did a fantastic job of narrating the Harry Potter CDs back in the day when we bought them for the children (and ourselves) and he has gone on making the most marvellous contributions to the audiobook market…
I love your comment about making the telephone directory sound fascinating! 🙂
It means that, besides the interesting subject (I always loved Greek mythology), the narrator adds something special of his own.
Thank you so much for sharing this!
Yes – he’s a marvellous narrator. But then he’s one of those multi-talented people who does a raft of things very well…
I think I would enjoy this – especially the narration. I love Greek mythology and you’re completely spot on of course – it doesn’t do to be too beautiful or talented – you might attract the wrong sort of attention – and always befriend bedraggled strangers who knock on your door – The Beast should have listened to that lesson.
lol… I hadn’t thought about The Beast – but you’re absolutely right:). Yes – it was the overall message that jumped out at me, not to be too beautiful or talented, or if you are, then try to hide it in some way! I think you would enjoy this one, too, Lynn:)
This one is an absolute joy…
Oh yes, this is not one for kiddies to hear, but it’s a joy to read!
Isn’t it?? I’m currently listening to the 2nd book Heroes – which is even more entertaining.
I loved Greek myths when I was a kid, and we recently finished a series about them on Amazon Prime, so this caught my attention. But I’ll likely look for an ebook or paperback, because I can’t get into audiobooks.
There are both ebook and paperback versions of this one too. If enjoyed Greek myths you’ll love this…