THE PLOT: ‘Stone Blind’ by Natalie Haynes is a retelling of the ancient Greek myths about Medusa. For the uninitiated, Medusa is the snake-haired Gorgon who can turn people into stone with a look. Told in multiple POVs, the novel charts her upbringing and how she came to have her powers until her eventual murder by Perseus (the myth is over 2,000 years old so that’s not a spoiler!). With a focus on female characters, both mortal and divine, the novel asks who the real monsters are.
RATING: As a former Classics student and lover of Natalie Haynes’ previous novel, ‘A Thousand Ships’, I was so excited to read this book. Unfortunately, I’ve got to admit… it’s missing something. Although I love multi-POV novels, I don’t think we got enough of the central character. Medusa’s personality didn’t feel well rounded because her only traits were being kind and good, and we didn’t see enough of her interacting with people before she was cursed. Therefore, I couldn’t build up my empathy and love for the character. Put frankly, I think this book was missing its emotional core and its heart.
GOOD BITS: This book is extremely funny, with a sarcastic narratorial voice throughout. This voice makes the divine seem human and petty. With realistic reflections on the Gods and Heroes that make them seem less, well, less God-like and heroic; Zeus is an imbecilic philanderer, Athene is a narcissist and Perseus is a petulant child. I also liked how it was inventive with the POVs, including chapters from the point of view of Medusa’s snakes and olive trees. However, I wish the tone of voice had varied between POVs, which brings me to my criticisms…
NOT SO GOOD BITS: While the sarcastic tone worked well in Athene and Perseus’s sections, I wanted more variation as the voice felt too similar for all of the POV’s. I feel making Medusa’s sections more distinct would have increased the emotion and empathy. Don’t get me wrong, there are touching moments but they made me care more about Medusa’s gorgon sisters than the character herself. Additionally, this is extremely pedantic but there were so many sentences starting with ‘but’ or ‘and’, which drove me crazy. I love starting a sentence with a preposition but I couldn’t stop mentally editing out the unnecessary repetition.
OVERALL: Read this if you love ‘Circe’ by Madeleine Miller, ‘Ariadne’ by Jennifer Saint or “A Thousand Ships” by Natalie Haynes. Re-imagining Greek myths from the point of view of the women will always have my heart and I don’t want to put people off – this is a good book. It just wasn’t as great as I expected.
Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NB Magazine for my #gifted copy.