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Medusa: The Girl Behind the Myth (Illustrated Gift Edition)

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As always, I prefer the original Greek myth, which didn’t have any involvement from Poseidon, but instead focused on Medusa’s innate power that came from being born the mortal Gorgon. Medusa has since been reclaimed as a feminist symbol, particularly one of women’s rage and associated with pushing back against toxic masculinity and sexual assault. That there is no record of Churchill saying this and it may be a paraphrase of many others all but forgotten by history only stands to exemplify its own point. Or rather, it’s woven by female characters, because to give voice to this very 21st-century impulse, she uses a classical literary convention known as ekphrasis, or the telling of tales through descriptions of striking works of art – in this case, tapestries.

Where Burton brings life to the characters with her words, Olivia Lomenech Gill's brushstrokes do just as perfect a job.She uses the story of Medusa to show how often, instead of being seen as victims of abuse, women have been accused of bringing on the abuse instead. Gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations of Medusa reinforce the lyrical text, which states that “you cannot break up a myth or wedge it on top of a cliff. The novel advocates a woman’s position, a woman wronged, and a journey to discover herself and find acceptance for what she has become. Eighteen-year-old Medusa has been exiled to an isolated, rocky island by Athena, who cursed her and turned her hair into a crown of snakes after Poseidon raped her and desecrated Athena’s temple.

Though unhappy with her appearance, she shares an interesting relationship with her snakes who each have names and moods that need to be tended. This is Perseus, chiselled, handsome, and possessed of a gleaming shield and sword, the ruby at its hilt twinkling portentously like ‘a gleaming ball of blood. So often, the woman or feminine model is a static vessel for the male evolution, and that’s something I wanted to counter in this version. He is Perseus, and he has been sent, against his will, to kill the mythical creature she has become. Although I did find that the narrator talked a bit too slow for my liking so I did have to speed it up.It was an interesting stylistic choice, and perhaps it works for some, but not for me - it made me a little bored, to be honest.

Stheno and Euryale became immortal winged beings, while Medusa, the mortal sister, with hair replaced by snakes, received a further cruel warning.After studying at Oxford University, the highlight of which was playing a rose and a fox in The Little Prince , she went on to the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. This gloriously illustrated book brings us Medusa’s story, a heady tale of love, betrayal, tyranny, and ultimately, the path to self-acceptance.

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