Review | Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes

The less-discussed side of Greek myth. 4/5.

Pandora's Jar by Natalie Haynes book cover

Thank you to Picador/Pan Macmillan for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

My take:

Earlier this year I enjoyed and reviewed Natalie Hayne’s A Thousand Ships (she’s had a busy year!), her excellent retelling of events relating to the Trojan War from the point of view of the female characters. However, while that was a work of fiction, Pandora’s Jar is non-fiction and a more academic consideration of the women of Greek myth.

This is an entertaining look at 10 female mythical figures as Haynes continues to her work to make the classics accessible. She was a stand-up comedian for many years and her wit shines through in her writing, helping to make what could be quite dry subject matter amusing and relatable. The volume of research she’s done is also commendable, particularly when the primary material about women in Greek myth is often scant, especially when compared to what we know about the men from ancient sources.

I was fascinated by the differences in how these female figures were depicted in ancient Greece and their more modern representations. You would hope that perhaps, with time, these women would have been given centre stage. Instead, the perception of them has become more restricted, their agency has been further diminished and voices muted. Pandora is the first and one of the most notable examples of this change in the book.

I have some minor caveats. If, like me, you’re a fan of Hayne’s excellent BBC Radio 4 show (Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics) and are up-to-date with the latest series, you may have already heard quite a bit of what’s in this book! She has always tried to get at least one female figure in each series and the last series focussed exclusively on women. Consequently, when I was reading Pandora’s Jar, sometimes I found my attention slipping because what I was reading was information I’d heard before. Also, I did find some of the 10 characters covered in the book more interesting than others. But then, we all know by now that I find it much harder to concentrate when reading non-fiction than fiction, so a lot of this could just be me!

Overall: highly recommended for those with an interest in Greek myth who are looking for an accessible, entertaining read covering characters not commonly discussed in similar books.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

10 thoughts on “Review | Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes

  1. Really interesting especially as i had just listened to Natalie Haynes and other authors talking to Kirsty Wark on Radio 4 Start the Week this morning. I have loved all the latest retelling of Greek Myths from the female point of view eg Circe and The Silence of the Girls.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Links I’ve Enjoyed This Week – 08/11/2020 #WeeklyRoundUpPost 🔗📆 🔗 #SecretLibraryBookBlog – Secret Library Book Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s