Review of 'Divine Might' - Natalie Haynes
I should probably start out by pointing out that I adore Natalie Haynes' books. I love that they are all female-centric and whilst they are sympathetic to the females - whether they be goddesses or mortals - they don't gloss over the facts when the women display less than attractive characteristics. If you've read Haynes' books before and enjoyed them, then this is definitely another one to add to your bookshelf.
In the book, Haynes takes each of the goddesses in turn and examines their stories, looking at their motivations, limitations and expectations in the context of both society at the time and the Pantheon. I found the chapter on Persephone particularly interesting as it covered sources I hadn't previously been aware of. Haynes' style of writing is light and engaging and I think my favourite part of it are the little asides - almost a nod and a wink to the reader. This is a real strength of hers as it draws the reader into the story she is weaving around them. This comes to the fore particularly in the audiobooks, which Haynes generally narrates herself, and you can hear her smiling as she reads them.
However, that's not to detract from either the seriousness of the subject matter or Haynes' expertise in the field. Whilst she is entertaining (if you haven't listened to her 'Natalie Haynes Stands Up For The Classics' you really need to!), she never treats her source material in a cavalier manner and her love for the subject shines through on every page. Her description of the statue of Persephone being abducted by Hades was so beautiful that I was able to conjure up the image despite having never seen the statue and her account was incredibly moving.
I studied Classics for A-level and have recently revisited a lot of what I learnt as my eldest son has just finished his own A-level in the subject and we spent a lot of time discussing the various interpretations of the stories, legends and myths. Haynes' books always challenge me to think in a different way, to look at a character from a different perspective and inspire me to continue learning about the 'people' behind the stories. I love that she gives a voice to the women who are so often reduced or ignored completely and she has reignited my love of this era. I don't read a huge amount of non-fiction, but Haynes is one of the few non-fiction authors I regularly seek out.