Thursday 5 November 2020

Zeus Is A Dick by Susie Donkin

In the beginning, everything was fine.* And then along came Zeus.
*more or less

Ahh Greek myths. Those glorious tales of heroism, honour and... petty squabbles, soap-opera drama and more weird sex than Fifty Shades of Grey could shake a stick at!

It's about time we stopped respecting myths and started laughing at them - because they're really very weird. Did you know Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, was born of some discarded genitals? Or that Hera threw her own son off a mountain because he was ugly? Or that Apollo once kidnapped a boat full of people while pretending to be a dolphin?

And let's not even get started on Zeus - king of the gods, ruler of the skies and a man who's never heard of self-control. In fact, if there's one thing most Greek myths have in common, it's that all the drama could have been avoided if SOMEONE could keep it in their toga...

Horrible Histories writer Susie Donkin takes us on a hilarious romp through mythology and the many times the gods (literally) screwed everything up! Stephen Fry's Mythos by way of Drunk History, Zeus is a Dick is perfect for those who like their myths with a heavy dollop of satire.

You can tell that Susie Donkin writes for Horrible Histories – the narrative style was very informal, crude and honestly like a soap opera. If the ancient Greek gods mingled with the cast of “Geordie Shore”, I wouldn’t be surprised, or be able to tell the difference!

This was a quickfire rundown of Greek mythology, giving a brief and speedy recap to the major players and how they related to each other – spoiler, they are all in fact literally related to each other! I really appreciated this format; it was nice to have a timeline to the random myths I’d always been aware of. And like the cast of “Geordie Shore”, the Greek gods were insane, horny and irresponsible. Donkin did an OK job of highlighting the wrongness of many of their actions, although I did tire of the writing style quite quickly. This is definitely a book to dip in and out of.

My understanding of the origin of myths is that ancient society used the stories to explain the world around them; the sea, the land, our relationships, even death, are controlled by the gods and that is who we need to appease so we don’t die from disease or famine. This is also why, I believe, so many myths are misogynistic and often involve rape: because the society that created them viewed women as lesser, so the gods did too.

Of course, this is my understanding and may be entirely wrong, but from my perspective, I can somewhat understand why Donkin wanted to write in this style: because the gods did do weird and stupid things and the subject matter lends itself to campfire stories. I can also understand why some readers didn’t appreciate Donkin’s assumptions of ancient Greeks’ motivation, because obviously there is no way to know why these myths were created.

Anyway, although the writing style took some getting used to, I actually liked this collection of myths. It was quite simplistic, assumed too many things and definitely brushed over a lot of details, but for an overall history of the Greek gods and goddesses, I thought it was good.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.