Temptresses: The Virago Book of Evil Women

Shahrukh Husain, Author Virago Press (UK) $13.99 (212p) ISBN 978-1-86049-563-2
""Hecate, Great Goddess, Divine Bitch, heal this, my wounded womanhood,"" cries Medea in her quest to revenge herself on her straying husband, Jason, and this book intends to answer that call. Husain, editor of The Virago Book of Witches, has studied myth and folklore from cultures around the world and found one underlying theme: independent, strong-willed women are consistently demonized. Through her reexamination of several of these myths, Husain hopes to reclaim these heroines as role models for women today. The demonic baby-snatching Lilith is reconceived as a lover of children, who was punished for standing up to Adam and demanding equal treatment. The Queen of Sheba challenges the misogynist Solomon, then has a one-night stand with him on her own terms. Morgan Le Fay, long painted as her half-brother King Arthur's foe, is shown to have been testing his worthiness, selflessly allowing herself to be thought of as a villain in order to train him to be a better, more careful ruler. Sometimes the stories read too much like mythological episodes of Sex in the City: the women of the Sheba court critically discuss penis size and shape; Lamia's servant repeatedly tries to convince her that Zeus is a bum and she should settle down with a nice guy. The women are complex, by turns impulsive and wise, vengeful and merciful, and not always noble in their intentions, even if they can justify their actions. Lacking in subtlety, but packed with spicy sex and a lot of silly, oafish men to laugh at, the book should sell among sex-positive Wiccans and fans of Xena: Warrior Princess, though it is a little too New Agey to hold much crossover appeal. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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