‘Funny, sharp explications of what these sometimes not-very-nice women were up to!’ – Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale
The Greek myths are among the world’s most important cultural building blocks and they have been retold many times, but rarely do they focus on the remarkable women at the heart of these ancient stories.
Stories of gods and monsters are the mainstay of epic poetry and Greek tragedy, from Homer to Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, from the Trojan War to Jason and the Argonauts. And still, today, a wealth of novels, plays and films draw their inspiration from stories first told almost three thousand years ago. But modern tellers of Greek myth have usually been men, and have routinely shown little interest in telling women’s stories. And when they do, those women are often painted as monstrous, vengeful or just plain evil. But Pandora – the first woman, who according to legend unloosed chaos upon the world – was not a villain, and even Medea and Phaedra have more nuanced stories than generations of retellings might indicate.
Now, in Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes – broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist – redresses this imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar (the box came later) as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus or Agamemnon, Paris or Odysseus, Oedipus or Jason, the voices that sing from these pages are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.
‘A treasure box of classical delights. Never has ancient misogyny been presented with so much wit and style’ – historian Amanda Foreman
Reading Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes: Funny, sharp explications of what these sometimes not-very-nice women were up to, and how they sometimes made idiots of . . . but read on! — Margaret Atwood If I’m ever prosecuted, I’d like Natalie Haynes to defend me. She argues persuasively, carving out space for women denied a voice (Medusa), overshadowed (Jocasta) and unjustly condemned (Helen of Troy) . . . Agile, rich, subversive, Pandora’s Jar proves that the classics are far from dead, and keep evolving with us. — Madeleine Feeny * Mail on Sunday * Haynes is a brilliant classicist as well as a stand-up comedian and with her latest offering, Pandora’s Jar, she has effectively written the first textbook codifying this new feminist take on the Greek myths. — Neil Mackay * Herald * Hugely enjoyable and witty * Guardian * Impassioned and informed . . . When Haynes gets down to retelling the stories . . . and teasing out their distortions and elisions, the book flies. * Sunday Times * An erudite, funny and sometimes angry attempt to fill in the blank spaces. — Stephanie Merritt * Observer * Natalie Haynes reclaims the women we know from Greek myth . . . from the accretions of misogyny that have become attached to their stories down the centuries. The result is the best kind of academic writing; engaged, engaging and fun (Beyonce, Ray Harryhausen and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all turn up within). * Herald, Christmas Books 2020 * Witty and frequently surprising — Farah Abdessamad * TLS * Beyonce, Star Trek, Ray Harryhausen . . . the most enjoyable book about Greek myths you will ever read, absolutely brimming with subversive enthusiasm. — Mark Haddon Witty, erudite and subversive, this takes the women of Greek myth-the women who are sidelined, vilified, misunderstood or ignored-and puts them centre stage. — Samantha Ellis, author of How to Be a Heroine and Take Courage Natalie Haynes is beyond brilliant. Pandora’s Jar is a treasure box of classical delights. Never has ancient misogyny been presented with so much wit and style. — Amanda Foreman Natalie Haynes is the nation’s muse — Adam Rutherford Natalie Haynes is both a witty and an erudite guide. She wears her extensive learning lightly and deftly drags the Classics into the modern world. I loved it. — Kate Atkinson, author of Life After Life
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