Feature

Alex Michaelides recommends 6 books influenced by mythology

The author recommends works by Madeline Miller, Stephen Fry, and more

Alex Michaelides is the author of The Silent Patient, a psychological thriller that became a No. 1 best-seller. His second novel, The Maidens, also draws on Greek myth, as death stalks the female acolytes of a charismatic classics professor.

Mythos by Stephen Fry (2019).

Growing up on the island of Cyprus, I was immersed in Greek mythology from a young age, and it has been a powerful source of inspiration for me. So I first must recommend Mythos. Not only does Stephen Fry record all the (often unwieldy) genealogies and stories, he retells the myths with such style and readability. Mythos is an epic achievement, both educational and hugely entertaining. I love this book. Buy it here.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012).

I'm very excited by the increasing interest in retelling Greek mythology, in taking it apart and putting it back together to provide a modern perspective. Miller retells the story of the Trojan War from the point of view of Patroclus, reframing the story so it becomes about the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, and the love they had for each other. Buy it here.

Circe by Madeline Miller (2018).

Reclaiming Circe from Odysseus' (and Homer's) narrative, Miller recasts this supporting player, this "baddie," as a troubled and fascinating heroine, at once ancient and modern. Miller's Circe is an exploration of what it means to be an independent woman in a man's world. Buy it here.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (2018).

Barker similarly plucked from The Iliad the relatively minor character of Briseis and elevated her from a pawn in the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon into narrator of the novel. Buy it here.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (2019).

I had the pleasure of witnessing this book being brought to life by an incredible cast of female actors in a series of monologues, a kind of Vagina Monologues for the ancient Greeks. Haynes gives a voice — or rather, many voices — to the marginalized, forgotten, and silenced women of the Trojan War. Buy it here.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (2021).

This is a retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Mino-taur from a female point of view — specifically Ariadne's perspective, examining her love for Theseus. She was prepared to betray her family and her country for him, and Saint considers her huge sacrifices in the context of her upbringing and the world around her. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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