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Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published March 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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.

You’ll fall in love with Zeus, marvel at the birth of Athena, wince at Cronus and Gaia’s revenge on Ouranos, weep with King Midas and hunt with the beautiful and ferocious Artemis.

Thoroughly spellbinding, informative and moving, Stephen Fry’s Mythos perfectly captures these stories for the modern age – in all their rich and deeply human relevance.

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt. In December we read The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton more recently we dived back into the world of Neal Shusterman in his collaboration with his son Jarrod which resulted in the novel Dry.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about Mythos at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Stuart: All finished and ready for Mythos! How about 3 parts this time? P129, p273 and finish?

Beth: Great plan! See you soon 👍🏻

Stuart: Is it just me or are you reading it as if Stephen Fry is saying it as well? 😂

Stuart: He had me at palaeoanthropological!

Stuart: ‘It screws with the head, but there it is’. Classic Fry!

Beth: Just about to start, very excited! I think I might have a different edition to you – p129 for me is halfway through a story. Do you mean up to the part beginning The Punishments? 🤔

Beth: Ooh a map and a family tree!

Beth: Seminal semantic semiology from the semen of the sky?! 😂 I love how his voice comes across!

Stuart: P129 for me is the page after the pictures section. Maybe p131 is better?

Beth: That’s perfect! 👌🏻

Stuart: ‘I will shout in triumph, just to annoy that prick Poseidon’ 😂 another quality Fry translation!

Stuart: I am ready. We always get the most interesting stopping points. Zeus is pissed!

Beth: I know – oooh he does NOT want to piss Zeus off!! How are you finding it so far? Did you know anything about Greek mythology prior to reading this?

Stuart: I knew of quite a few of the Olympians like Hera, Hermes, Poseidon, Hephaestus and such. I also knew the other collectives like the fates and furies. I had no idea how it gelled together though. I couldn’t believe the creations of Aphrodite, Athena and Hermes though. Fry is just class through and through. I want him to narrate everything 😂.

Beth: He absolutely should! What you said at the beginning was so true – it reads almost as if he’s in the room with you, it’s fantastic! I studied Greek mythology for a little while at school

but it was a long time ago and we didn’t cover everything. There’s certainly brand new parts for me that I really enjoyed like how the honeybee got its sting! 🐝 I was a bit worried at the start because it seemed to be name after name and was quite overwhelming but now it’s more about the stories I’m really enjoying it. 😁

Stuart: It is a lot to take in, I completely agree. I am going to have to read this multiple times I think to solidfy it into my memory. I am enjoying the imagery of the myths and lore but its Stephen Fry’s approach to the material that makes this book amazing for me. Its almost a soap opera but with all the Fryisms you could ask for.

Beth: Yes! Just the little one liners and the way the gods have conversations with each other that just shriek of Fry’s classic humour. He’s such a legend. What do you think of the gods themselves. That Zeus is a bit of a one isn’t he? 😂

Stuart: I find the idea of each generation of leader being destined to be destroyed or overpowered by their children an interesting concept. I think all the loop holes and accidents that create natural occurences to be compelling. Like the Honey Bee or the Cyclopes bringing thunder and lightening with them. Having a divine explanation for each and every element of existence instead of just saying, yeah God created it. I am interested in the God side of things bit I am more looking forward to the demi-gods and creatures that will hopefully pop up. Medusa got a fleeting mention but I hope Fry will pick that up again later. What is one thing you want to gain from reading this book?

Beth: Yes I love the story of Medusa, looking forward to that one. I really enjoy all the different monsters, my favourite is probably Theseus and the Minotaur but I think Fry suggested this might be covered in the Heroes book? 🤔 I think I’d like to re-discover my love for Greek mythology and also get a glimpse into how the Greeks have affected contemporary times, like the words we still use today. How about you?

Stuart: I want to learn more about how the Greeks developed language, art and story-telling through the worship of their gods. I find mythology fascinating and I am keen to flesh out my knowledge of how all of the Greek Legends fit together. Fry’s own passion for Greek lore is infectious, I think it is going to be easier and easier to get lost in this book!

Stuart: In a good way 😃

Beth: For sure. I’m really enjoying the pictures/sculptures too. I saw the Aphrodite Botticelli painting recently (in real life) and it was pretty amazing!

Stuart: Art is one thing I would definitely like to get more into. I could read about art and painters all day but I hardly get the opportunity to go out and visit a gallery. Shall we continue our excursion into the world of Greek Legends?

Beth: Yes let’s do it! See you soon. 👋🏻

Stuart: I’ve made it! How are you getting on?

Beth: I’m at the checkpoint too! Oh I’m loving Fry’s dry wit so much. Especially that last section with Death and the “Mwahahaha!” 😂

Stuart: He does add a great aesthetic to the individuals and how they come to interact with each other. The mid section is even more packed than the beginning! Pandora. Demeter. Humankind. Heart and Soul. What do you think so far?

Beth: I’m enjoying it! His flair with story-telling just adds to the myths themselves and makes them feel richer somehow and even a bit contemporary if that makes any sense? I was so pleased to see my favourite story in there – the one with Persephone but had forgotten how they brought the changing of the seasons into it. Have you got a favourite so far?

Stuart: Definitely Phaethon crashing Apollo’s chariot into the earth and creating the Sahara desert. Amazing imagery. With so many stories packed in here, there are so many to choose from. I really liked the healthcare section too and how close humanity got to immortality. It is hard to keep track of it all though. Well for me at least 😅

Beth: No definitely for me too! So many names and who is related to whom, I am finding that tricky. When he starts rolling off name after name I find my eyes start glazing over a bit until we get to another story. 😂 Like you said, I’m loving the parts that relate to our world now like the changing of the seasons and the misery unleashed from opening Pandora’s *jar* not box! 😆

Stuart: So glad it wasn’t just me. It’s great that you pick up on moments like the jar instead of the box because I totally do too. I took that bit of trivia and tucked it away in my brain for later 😂. I have to say that the greeks have some insane explanations for how the world came to be, mainly how humanity was reborn… I wonder what other disturbing events we have in store in the third act…

Beth: I totally did that for the trivia too haha!! 😂 I think we’ve got plenty of interesting things in store for us for the final section (probably more parts of Zeus’ body to bear children from?!) Shall we read till the end? 😁

Stuart: You can’t get better than a thigh baby though, can you? Let’s do it! See you at the end.

Stuart: Consistently inconsistent 😂. The third section was really good! I’m ready to talk!

Beth: Me too! Ah I’m kind of sorry it’s all over. 😓

Stuart: It’s okay, we have Heroes to look forward to in July 😃

Beth: That’s very true! 😁 What are your thoughts overall? For me it was quite nostalgic being reminded of my favourite Greek myths and I loved that I got to learn brand new ones. Yes all the names were a bit too much at times but his voice and sense of humour really made up for that.

Stuart: I was more aware of the actual gods and mortals than how they actually fit into the bigger picture. I got my greek mythology lessons from video games and movies but it was great to go right back the source. Stephen Fry did an impressive job of being both informative and passionate with the subject matter which can sometimes be difficult for writers. I’m just amazed about how much depth there is in this book!

Beth: Yes absolutely the effort he put into researching it was incredible. Did you pick up that he mentioned he studied Ancient Greek in the Afterword? It must be a topic he’s passionate about and that definitely comes across in the writing.

Stuart: Fry is a knowledgeable man and he breathes new life into these legends and adds up to date insights into how the mythology grew, expanded and translated over the centuries which is exactly what I was looking for. I was also looking for laughs from Fry and he delivered that as well. How did you get on with all the themes and tones of the writing. It got quite unabashedly explicit at times which Fry encouraged I think 😂. It is easy to believe that Ancient Greek Legends is where the substance and meaning of stories was born. Do you agree?

Beth: I certainly do! 😆 he brought far more personality and vibrancy to the Greek Gods than I ever could have imagined. I liked that he focused on a few different topics like what happens when the gods fall in love, get jealous etc. I was already familiar with the story of Arachne and what happens to her when she dares to challenge a goddess at weaving but Fry really made it come alive by the way he told it, making it a sadder tale than I remembered! 🕷🕸

Stuart: He really hit his stride in the last chapters of the book and I couldn’t get enough. Sisyphus and the boulder. Marsyas The Musical. Arachne the Weaver. Midus. The swallow and nightingale. Arion and the Dolphin (so good). I didn’t want it to end after hearing all of those tales back to back.

Beth: Aw I loved Arion and the Dolphin 🐬 especially what happened to those sailors in the end! I also thought the story of Echo and Narcissus was very sad. They seemed to have a story for all moods didn’t they?

Stuart: So much imagination and creativity is present in every single story here and it is hard not to be inspired. You’re right, a story for every mood. A lesson or warning for every reader. We owe our language and our ability to tell great stories from this culture and I couldn’t think of a better person than Stephen Fry to convey that in a charming and meaningful way that makes you want to know and understand these figures and stories better.

Beth: Perfectly put! 👍🏻 We’re going to be reading Heroes together right?! 😆

Stuart: Absolutely. Are you happy to wait till June 27th for the paperback release?

Beth: Oh yes. 😁

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

I had Mythos on my radar for a while now, ever since I started hearing the buzz about it and then realised it was written by Stephen Fry whose personality and dry wit I just adore. As I mentioned in the Twitter chat, I studied Greek Mythology for a little while at school but hadn’t read anything for a while so I was excited to remind myself of my old favourite stories and satisfy my curiosity as to how Fry would put his spin on the classic myths. Well, from the very first moment, as we mentioned, it felt as if Fry was almost jumping off the pages towards us. His voice, intelligence and sense of fun came across beautifully and personally, I feel he brought a modern and rather unique flavour to these stories, making them accessible for a potentially brand new audience.

Stephen Fry, author of Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold (Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology #1)

There were parts of this book where it wasn’t all plain sailing but in the grand scheme of things, they’re such minor quibbles that it didn’t affect my enjoyment of Fry’s work in the least. Fry begins telling us the story of the Gods of Mount Olympus from the very beginning i.e. how the Earth came to be, the battles between the titans, the founding of the twelve principle Gods under the helm of head man, Zeus and even how humans were created (and occasionally messed around with!). This was all incredibly interesting and something I don’t believe I studied in much detail at school but I have to admit, there are a lot of names and intricate relationships to get to grips with initially and there were points where I felt quite overwhelmed by the amount of detail we’re given as a reader. However, please don’t let this put you off as once Fry gets into the meat of each individual story, it’s as juicy and riveting as you might expect.

Stand-out stories? I immediately go back to particular favourites that just became even richer on a second reading as an adult – primarily the story of Persephone and the god of the Underworld, Hades and additionally, the tale of Arachne the weaver and the proud goddess whom she manages to infuriate. I was also pleasantly surprised at the extra little mythological details Fry included like the reason behind the changing of the seasons, how the honeybee got its sting, why the spider spins a web, to name a few. The author makes this collection so much more special by including instances like imagined conversations between gods or gods versus humans where his unique and hilarious humour is allowed to shine through and makes the stories instantly more readable, relatable and almost up-to-date in their execution. Stuart and I enjoyed this collection so much that we’ve instantly agreed to read the second book in this series, Heroes together when it comes out in paperback in the summer and I’m eagerly anticipating another brilliant, illuminating book from the genius that is Stephen Fry.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog at some point today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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