Originally published: 15 September 2022
Author: Natalie Haynes
Published by: Mantle Books
Length: 384 pages
Reading dates: 9-12 January 2023
“So to mortal men, we are monsters. Because of our flight, our strength. They fear us, so they call us monsters.”
Medusa is the sole mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her Gorgon sisters, she begins to realize that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt. And her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.
When the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. The power cannot be controlled: Medusa can look at nothing without destroying it. She is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness.
Until Perseus embarks upon a quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon . . .
Stone Blind is one of the many books from 2022 that I was desperate to read but somehow ran out of time for! I’m so glad I finally picked it up as part of my resolution to read at least one backlist hardback a month. Stone Blind tells the story of Medusa. She is a mortal child (with wings) born of sea gods, and is left on the beach in the care of her immortal sisters the Gorgons, Euryale and Sthenno. They quickly have to learn to take care of a baby, to feed and care for it and they come to love Medusa.
While a teenager, Medusa is visiting Athene’s temple when she is set up on by Poseidon and raped. Traumatised and scared she returns to the beach where her sisters are worried about her but she does not confide in them. Athene meanwhile takes great offence that such an act could have taken place in her temple, and knowing she cannot get revenge on Poseidon while he is in his underwater kingdom, goes to Medusa, cursing her to become the character that is familiar in Greek mythology, a woman with snakes for hair and the power to turn any creature to stone, just by looking at them.
I must admit I find Greek mythology a little intimidating – I’m not sure why that is because I absolutely loved this! There is a very helpful cast of characters in the front which includes their relationships to other characters and I referred to it often. What I loved about this book is that it is not just Medusa’s story – we hear from Zeus and his goddess daughter Athene. We hear of the grudges and wars that take place between the gods. We hear of another of Zeus’s offspring, a mortal son called Perseus who is tasked with fetching the head of a Gorgon in order to save his mother from an unwanted marriage and Medusa being the only mortal Gorgon becomes his target.
Hayne’s writing is engaging, humorous and witty and she brings the story of these mythological gods, goddesses and monsters to life. An absolutely wonderful story, I’m now keen to read all the other Greek mythology novels I have (yes, despite being intimidated, I have amassed quite a collection!)
Thank you to Book Break UK for sending a beautiful proof copy of Stone Blind for review. I treated myself to the signed independent book shop edition with amazing spredges!
About the author:
Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster and – according to the Washington Post – a rock star mythologist. Her first novel, The Amber Fury, was published to great acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, as was The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, her previous book. Her second novel, The Children of Jocasta, was published in 2017. Her retelling of the Trojan War, A Thousand Ships, was published in 2019. It was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. It has been translated into multiple languages. Her most recent non-fiction book, Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myth was published in Oct 2020, and reached number 2 in the New York Times Bestseller chart. Her novel about Medusa, Stone Blind, was published in Sep 2022 and Margaret Atwood liked it. So did Neil Gaiman.
She has spoken on the modern relevance of the classical world on three continents, from Cambridge to Chicago to Auckland.
She writes for the Guardian. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4: eight series of her show, Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, have been broadcast on Radio 4: all series are available now on BBC Sounds. She will make series 9 in 2023.