Reviewed by L.D.Y.
Trade, 305 pages, 2007
Reason for Reading: I loved Greek mythology when I was younger – and I guess I still do!
Synopsis: The Greek gods of ancient times are alive and…living in London? Athena, Apollo, Artemis and a select assortment of the other gods live in a decrepit flat, largely forgotten and losing their powers in 21st century England. A pair of mortals, Alice and Neil, a would-be couple but for their shyness, have stumbled across their paths and now find themselves wrapped up in the crazy (and often petty) lives of the gods. Boredom-inspired bickering from Aphrodite and Apollo has escalated until their chaos may spell the of mankind, unless Alice and Neil can dig deep for some Odyssean-level heroics…
Why you should read this book: Phillips has modernized the Greek gods in a witty and sassy way – Aphrodite has a drawer full of sex toys, Apollo is using his ability to see the future in his role as a TV psychic, and none of them have any interest in the minutiae of life, which is how Alice comes into play as their new house-cleaner. The London setting cleverly throws everything out of whack so you’ll never know what to expect next. It was an absolute delight catching all the references to each of the gods and their ‘specialties’ (people breaking into otherwise inexplicable fights around Ares, the god of war, for example) and reading an imagined modernization of their talents. Part comedy, part heroic adventure story, part love story, and fully out-of-control hilarious, Gods Behaving Badly will make you a believer.
Why you should avoid this book: If you were never much for Greek mythology you might not gravitate toward this book – half the fun and whimsy is seeing old characters recast in a modern light. But if you’re forgotten who’s the god of what, Phillips will get you up to speed with brief reminders, so don’t let that hold you back.
One morning, when Artemis was out walking the dogs, she saw a tree where no tree should be.
Enjoying the wince of pain that passed over Apollo’s watching face, she whispered her instructions to Hermes.
‘That girl. Bring her here. I don’t care how.’ Her tongue performed a complex maneuver on the inside of Hermes’s ear canal. ‘I’ll make it worth your while.’
Hermes, not trusting himself to make a sound, just nodded. Aphrodite smiled to herself. She was a very hard goddess to say no to.
‘They plan to kill Zeus as well.’
‘None of you would dare,’ said Hera, but she sounded nervous now.
‘Why not?’ said Apollo. ‘That was how Zeus got the job, wasn’t it? He killed his father. His father killed his father…’
‘Zeus is stronger than you imagine,’ said Hera. ‘He is not ready to die.’
‘You look worried,’ said Apollo.
‘I’m not worried.’
Also recommended: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.
Also by this author: Gods Behaving Badly is Phillips’ first novel.
Author’s website: mariephillips.co.uk
Fun tidbit: Phillips worked in bookshops while writing Gods Behaving Badly, after leaving her career in television.
Would I read more by this author? Yes, this was definitely a fun mix of mythology and modern times. I can’t wait to see what else Phillips dreams up.
© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2009