Monday, January 07, 2008

Togas: the New Look for Spring

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 1, Number 3





Don't you love it when a book makes you laugh out loud? I read a lot, and over the years it's gotten harder to find something that will really crack me up. Gods Behaving Badly was so funny. Maybe it's just because I'm a Classics geek, but I LOVED this book. The premise is that the Greek gods, though no one believes in them any more, have relocated from Olympus to London. They live together in a poky house and, though they are still responsible for their traditional tasks, have begun to lose their power. They've had to take jobs to support themselves, but don't really excel at it. (Except for Aphrodite, who is in high demand as a phone-sex operator.)

400 years living in the same house have taken their toll, and the gods spend a fair bit of time sniping and backbiting each other. These are the best bits of the book, actually, and highly amusing - especially if you're familiar with the Greek pantheon. In one scene, Artemis interrupts Ares at his work. He is muttering, "This War on Terror isn't producing enough casualties. Bringing in Iran is the obvious choice, but I don't think they've got enough firepower yet. I wonder if I could somehow antagonise Japan?" And Hermes, to a mortal: "Did you shag [Apollo]? I wouldn't worry about that. Everybody shags him. Even I've shagged him. That was during a very boring decade."

The novel is centred around Artemis and Apollo, for the most part. (I liked this: Artemis was the focus of my 4th year Directed Readings course at UVic.) The other deities have roles of varying importance, although some only get a mention. Demeter appears in a rather poor light, and Hestia doesn't appear at all. It's an important omission (considering their domestic difficulties) but the worst crime is the way the author depicts Athena: as a hovering, anxious, self-important fusspot.

Aside from a few flaws, it was an enjoyable read. Hilarious in parts, thought-provoking in others. Like many novels, I felt it was off to a good start and had the scope to be about twice the length it actually is: the author is onto something. Unfortunately, the conflict resolves rather quickly, and the novel wraps up before you're quite ready to be done with it.

And as a reader, if you have to have a problem with a book, that's a good one to have.

14 comments:

Gwen said...

Shame about Athena; I'm quite fond of her. She's feisty and snappy. Her treatment of Arachne is my fave. "Think you can embroider better than me? Think again, beyotch. (ZAP!) How do you like them apples, freaky hairy spider? Haha!"

Gwen said...

^ ^ ^
Okay, that was a weird comment. Sorry. Got carried away.

Shan said...

You should definitely read this book.

Bethro said...

That's a great recommendation..I'll have to write it down.

Your review made me think that, if you haven't read it, you would really enjoy The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde.

Gena said...

Sounds like a good one. I love the classics, too, so I'll have to check it out!

Dave Hingsburger said...

OKOKOKOK, if you like that, how's about Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman? It's about the apocolypse and couldn't be funnier. Their take on the four horsemen is wonderful. It's laugh out loud funny with one of the funniest openings I've ever read in a book. I'm a cruel critic of comedies, they mostly bore me or I find the author trying way to hard, this book ... is a worthwhile read. Joe and I are still quoting it to each other, I'm gonna (doesn't that make me sound YOUND?) look it up. Right now I'm reading Q a 900 page book that begins with Martin Luther nailing his, um, thoughts to the church door.

Shan said...

Aha: thank you, bethro and Dave - the library will notify me when they come in. I'm looking forward to it.

By the way, is it okay that I don't know what YOUND is?

kate said...

Loved your title, great review, a book I will add to the list.

Jo said...

It's funny that your book had a completely different cover than mine. I didn't like how she portrayed Athena either - like no one could ever understand what she said. She because someone is the goddess of wisdom doesn't mean she has to talk above everyone else. And as for Hestia - perhaps she had already 'faded' (although it seemed a sin to not mention her at all) and that is why the house was in the state it was Good review ;)

Jo said...

I hate that there is no spell check on comments...

Dave Hingsburger said...

You don't know what YOUND means ... where the hell did you go to school!?!

Tabatha said...

I will have to check it out next time I am at the library.

I just want to second Terry Pratchett - not that it really needs seconding. I am a big fan of Pratchett.

lizbon said...

Sounds fun, though I think that was definitely an oversight about Athena. She's meant to rock, if you ask me.

Gwen said...

I finally found the book, and loved the daylights out of it. I couldn't get enough of this book, actually, and thought that the author could have gone on a LOT longer.