Pandora’s Jar: Women in Greek Myths

Natalie Haynes. HarperPerennial, $17.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-313946-6

Classicist Haynes (A Thousand Ships) challenges common ideas about Greek mythology in this sharp corrective. To show “how differently [myths] were viewed in the ancient world,” she closely reads the tales of 10 mythological women. Medusa, for example, was more than just a serpent-haired villain, but was transformed into a “monster” after being raped by Poseidon. In the tale of Jocasta written by Sophocles, she and Oedipus did not realize the nature of their relationship (and readers often overlook her “terrible fate,” Haynes writes). Medea, meanwhile, was a clever woman whose choice between “jealous or crazy” mirrors Beyoncé’s, and Pandora didn’t unleash evils onto the world out of vengeance—her vessel was originally a jar, not a box, and one easily tipped over. Haynes also offers a fascinating study of renderings of mythological figures in art as they changed over time, including on ancient water jars, in Italian bowls from 400 BCE, and as 16th-century statues. While in some sections Haynes assumes too much knowledge on the part of the reader, when she hits her stride and seamlessly blends historical, textual, and artistic analysis, her survey sings. Even those casually familiar with Greek mythology will find this enriching. Agent: Peter Strauss, RCW Literary. (Mar.)
PW EDITORS’ PICKS FOR
THE BEST NEW BOOKS
PW EDITORS’ PICKS FOR THE BEST NEW BOOKS