“Breaking Away” by Anna Gavalda (2009)

1 Comment

breaking“I hadn’t even sat down yet, one buttock still hovering, my hand on the car door, and already my sister-in-law was on the attack.”

Most of you reading this probably have siblings. Older or younger, brother or sister, one or many, you may well have grown up with another one in the nest, seeking the same attention as you. I have a sister who is currently farming and emu-wrangling* her way through Australia and I miss her a lot. This book was perhaps not the right thing to read, then.

*possibly

Most of the action takes place in one location – a car. Garance has just been picked up by her brother Simon and his shrew of a wife Carine, and they are now off to a family wedding. The story is told from Garance’s point of view and is pretty much a review of the relationships and lives of her and her three siblings – Simon, Lola and Vincent.

Garance worships all three of her siblings, incomplete without any of them, thinking that each of them is a saint in their own ways (except Simon, who is better than a saint). It builds up a tapestry of their relationships merely through her wandering thoughts as they push through the French countryside. Lola eventually confirms that she’s coming too, so they pick her up from the station (much to Carine’s annoyance) and then head off to the wedding. Arriving, they discover that Vincent isn’t coming, so the three slip away and head to his chateau to find him.

It’s a little novella, but there isn’t a word wasted among its pages. It’s beautiful, charming, warm and above all real. You want to be able to sit with these people and it feels like an honour to be allowed to spend a little time with them. It is exquisite in its construction, given that, as mentioned, most of it takes place in the same confined location with just three present characters. It’s a book about adulthood, and how we all have to let go of our childhood, even though the real world is full of disappointments, bad lovers, mistakes and responsibilities we’d rather ignore (the throwaway line about what Garance does for a living is a bit of a shock given what you’ve learnt of her so up until that point).

It’s happy but sad at the same time, and a gorgeous little novel to finish up the year on.

Happy New Year, everyone. See you in 2014! X

“The Knife Of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness (2008)

9 Comments

It ain't for butter spreading.

It ain’t for butter spreading.

“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.”

The excitement in her voice was palpable as she almost threw the book at me saying, “You will love it! Honestly, you’ll be asking me to lend you the sequels without a doubt!”

“But what’s it about?” I asked.

“Just read it,” she said.

I am, naturally, talking about one of my friends – in this instance, the psychologist – who has given me a copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go. I don’t know it, have never heard of it, but the opening line is known to me. I don’t know why, or from what situation, but I have heard that line before. I’m always wary when people are so keen on a book, if only because I don’t want to hurt their feelings when I’m unimpressed by it. But, in this case, she was absolutely right.

This is the story of Todd Hewitt, who is the last boy in Prentisstown. All boys become men on their thirteenth birthdays, and Todd is still a month away from his. None of the men want to talk to him anymore, so he is left with his dog Manchee, a dog he never wanted, and his two sort-of-fathers, Ben and Cillian. Prentisstown, however, is not your average town. Firstly, there are no women. Secondly, everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts. They call it the Noise, and it means there is no privacy or secrets anywhere, as anything you think can immediately be read by everyone else. And it’s not just the humans – you can hear the thoughts of the animals too.

But then, quite without warning or preparation, Todd stumbles upon a pocket of complete silence – something that cannot and should not exist, and yet does. When he returns to the farm and Ben reads in his Noise what he has found, everything begins to change, and Todd and Manchee are forced out on the run when the Mayor comes knocking and demanding Todd be handed over to him.

I wish I could tell you more of the story here and, while I can, I think it would be unfair to do so. There are so many surprises along the way and it wouldn’t be right of me to remove the joy of experiencing them from you first hand. As such, this review is going to be rather vague.

First things first, quite simply, this novel is incredible. It clocks in at almost five hundred pages, but it’s so gripping and fast-paced that you barely notice. Todd is a young narrator who doesn’t make me want to commit infanticide. He’s naive for his age, but it is merely a product of his very sheltered upbringing. The primary villain, Aaron, is a masterful creation of what happens to men when they become monsters, driven by madness and their own agenda.

The book doesn’t shy away from graphic violence and showing the effects of it. The bigger themes are those of doing what is right and what is easy, about how information overload can do dangerous things to you (it was this theme that made Ness choose to write the book for teenagers), and also how the choices we make impact the sort of man or woman we grow up to be. There are some dreadfully sad moments (this is not a funny book) and some passages are a little dry, but on the whole the action and exposition are so neatly entwined that I can’t complain about it. I’m particularly fond of the representation of the Noise which, when in Prentisstown, is displayed as dozens upon dozens of overlapping lines of speech in various handwriting, showing the reader how overwhelming the situation must be.

The ending … well, it totally rests on a cliffhanger that sets you up for the next book. I will be continuing this series in 2014, so watch this space!

15/01/2014 EDIT: My review of the second book in the series is available here.

Merry Christmas!

Leave a comment

I hope that all my friends, followers and fans had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2014.

And with this stack of brand new books, stand by for more reviews in the coming year!

Snapshot_20131226_2

“Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” by Agatha Christie (1938)

3 Comments

xmas poirot

Candy cane daggers and poisoned eggnog not included.

“Stephen pulled up the collar of his coat as he walked briskly along the platform.”

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. A tyrannical father lying dead with a slashed throat on his bedroom floor. Wait … it must be a Christie Christmas!

Once upon a time, someoene had got fed up with Christie’s murders. He claimed that the murders were too refined and desperately wanted a “good violent murder with lots of blood”, in which there was absolutely no question of it having been murder. This person was Agatha Christie’s brother-in-law, James. In retaliation, she wrote and dedicated this book to him, one of her goriest.

Simeon Lee is the head of a family that has long since disbanded but, with Christmas, approaching, he calls back his sons – dependable Alfred, vacant David, stingy George and black sheep Harry – and their wives for a family Christmas. Simeon is an invalid now, waited on by his carer Horbury and his butler Tressilian, and while some of the family think that this is a genuine move on his part to try and reunite the family in his final days, some think otherwise. To round off the party, there are the additions of Simeon’s only grandchild, Pilar Estravados, escaped from Spain, and Stephen Farr, the son of Simeon’s old business partner.

On Christmas Eve, after a meeting in which Simeon disparages every last one of his family, telling them that none of them have made him proud and he probably has illegitimate children he would be prouder of, he throws them out of his room and implies that he is going to change his will. Later that night however, there is an enormous crash from Simeon’s room, and an inhuman scream. The household rushes to the bedroom to find that the room has been locked from the inside. Once they break the door down, Simeon is laying dead on the floor, his throat cut. There is blood all around the room that has been turned upside-down, and the diamonds from Simeon’s safe are missing. It’s time to call in Poirot…

Poirot is at his finest here, slightly conniving as he works his magic to solve the bizarre problem. Obviously, everyone claims to have been somewhere else but there is little love in the family and everyone seems to have the means, motive and opportunity. It is a classic example of the “locked room mystery” where, as stated above, something happens in a room that has been locked from the inside. With just a couple of tiny clues, Poirot solves the whole thing in an amazingly satisfactory manner.

I can’t claim to have got this one right, but I did toy with the solution for a while earlier on in the novel. Towards the end, though, I’d changed my mind, quite wrongly. This is one of Christie’s better character-driven novels, with the personalities all very strong (particularly those of the wives, Lydia, Hilda and Magdalene, all of whom I liked a lot) and while there are perhaps rather too many coincidences and strange things going on, it does actually all make perfect sense. Perhaps more of a product of the time, you are unlikley to entirely work out the methods used in the murder unless you’re familiar with the time the book is set.

Christie definitely delivered for her brother-in-law, and I hope he enjoyed it. I know I did.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

“A Series Of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket (1999 – 2006)

5 Comments

unfortunate

Unlucky for some.

“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”

This year I have so far read eighty-eight books. Seventy-five of them were new to me and had never been read, but thirteen of them had been read before. I scattered mentions of them throughout the year, but now it’s time to review the series as a whole, which feels like one hell of a job. I am, of course, talking about A Series Of Unfortunate Events, the masterpiece series of Daniel Handler or, as he’s more commonly known, Lemony Snicket.

The series is presumably known to you in some degree or another. The first one came out in 1999 and they appeared speedily after that, meaning that the series was complete just seven years later. It is the story of three orphaned siblings, inventor Violet, bookworm Klaus and food-loving Sunny Baudelaire, who are given the bad news that their parents have been killed in a fire that has destroyed their family mansion. They are now alone in the world and must go to be looked after by their guardian, Count Olaf, thus beginning the titular series of unfortunate events that follow the children. Their parents left behind an enormous fortune and Olaf wants to get his hands on it, and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. No one believes that the Baudelaires are in danger until it is almost too late, but once they’ve left Olaf’s house, things just go from bad to worse.

The series progesses, thusly:

It opens with The Bad Beginning, which features the plot I’ve mentioned above. Olaf and his troupe of actor friends are hungry for the fortune, but since no one can get hold of it until Violet, the eldest child, comes of age, Olaf comes up with an alternate plan – he will marry Violet (who is a distant niece of his – yep) and then kill her, bequeathing the money to him. The plan is scuppered at the last minute, and the siblings are whisked away.

the bad beginningThe second book is The Reptile Room, in which they meet perhaps the only guardian that gives a damn about them and appears to be a genuinely nice person, Uncle Monty. A herptologist, he studies and collects rare reptiles and amphibians from across the globe, including the Incredibly Deadly Viper, a snake with the friendliest temperament of any so far found. Olaf returns in disguise and kills Uncle Monty, meaning that the siblings are once again sent to a new guardian.

In The Wide Window, they stay with the very nervous Aunt Josephine whose true passions are grammar and remembering her late husband. She lives on the edge of a lake and a huge storm one night blows the house away and out across the water, leaving the Baudelaires struggling to sail a boat home in the waves. As you can assume by now, Olaf is not far behind.

The series progresses with The Miserable Mill, where the three begin working in a lumbermill with nothing to eat but chewing gum and a strange hypnotist living across the way. They are then sent to boarding school, which is the focus of The Austere Academy. Here they are tortured by weird rules, school bullies, a violin-playing vice prinicpal and Count Olaf in disguise as a PE teacher. The series deepens here when the Baudelaires meet the Quagmire triplets (well, two of them) who inform them that there is a secret afoot and that the children must all find out about “V.F.D.” and their questions will be answered. With nothing more to go on than those initials, the two families are split. The Quagmires are kidnapped, and the Baudelaires are sent to their next guardian, the vile Esme Squalor.

In The Ersatz Elevator, the three are back in their home town but living in a penthouse of a huge towerblock, their problems exacerbated when Esme teams up with Olaf and the two run away together to cause more mayhem, the Quagmire triplets in tow. With no suitable guardians left, the siblings are then sent to a village, The Vile Village, where they run with the logic that “it takes a village to raise a child”. The already dark series becomes darker here as the whole thing turns on its head. Arrested and charged with murder, the siblings are soon on the run and they are now all alone in the world with no one to protect them, while more and more nonsensical clues about V.F.D. pile up. From now on, it is the children who begin to disguise themselves and perform nefarious deeds.

In The Hostile Hospital, the siblings find potential evidence that one of their parents has survived, but they are unable to do anything about it when Violet is kidnapped by Olaf and nearly killed. The three eventually escape in the boot of Olaf’s car and they end up at The Carnivorous Carnival, where they pretend to be circus freaks. After dealing with a dodgy psychic and a pit of very hungry lions, their sorrowful adventures continue across the Mortmain Mountains, the events of which are covered in the tenth book, The Slippery Slope. In this one, previous characters begin to reappear, more and more of them over the next three books, and the siblings find the remains of a V.F.D. headquarters, learning more about the strange organisation that suffered a schism that split its members into volunteers (such as the Baudelaire parents) and villains (like Count Olaf).

hospitalIn The Grim Grotto, the siblings are aboard a submarine and then have to deal with a fungi of extremely deadly properties as Sunny battles for her little life in an underwater race against time. Once above water again, the three meet Kit Snicket, sister to the “author”, who takes them to a hotel for The Penultimate Peril, where the last eleven books begin to tie themselves together and events begin to make a little bit more sense than before, but only a little.

Finally, in The End, Violet, Klaus, Sunny and Count Olaf are castaway on a strange island where Ishmael rules over his people, advising them to stay safe, do what he says, and avoid the trechary of the outside world. And it is here that the Baudelaire siblings get some more answers, and also where the story finishes.

Whew.

People who compare this book to Harry Potter in its success are missing the point entirely. This isn’t Harry Potter – this is modern day Roald Dahl at its finest. Handler is a master of the absurd, mixing the hilarious with the harrowing, the daft with the dark. His style is mesmerising and he is fond of using ridiculous concepts, such as informing you how or when a character is going to die many pages before they do, or taking time out to explain what the bigger words mean (often with very strange definitions) or telling the reader about some strange event in his own life. His style is tangential and bizarre (there’s two pages containing nothing but the word “ever”; another two are totally blacked out; one book explains the water cycle multiple times) but you’re hooked because he’s so insistent that you shouldn’t read the very sad story he is laying out that you know you have to.

The books are all about right and wrong, and how sometimes it is impossible to distinguish between the two. The children believe that they are doing the right thing all the time, and that they know what Olaf does is evil. However, the siblings later are responsible for death and arson and subterfuge, much like Olaf was before them, leading them into questions of moral relativity, and how sometimes good people can do evil, and evil people can do good. Even in the final pages, Olaf himself is revealed to be probably not as clear-cut villainous as was previously suspected. Most of the characters have had horrible histories, but they end up choosing whether to be good or bad, showing that our choices matter more than our backgrounds, which is a theme recurrent in much modern literature. There’s also a lot of talk on the nature of secrets – how some matter and some don’t, how some can protect and some can damage. But who are they really protecting, and why?

the endThe series is strong, intelligent (there are dozens of references in each book to literature and literary figures), funny, incredibly dark (one particularly memorable moment is having Olaf stroking a knife against 14-year-old Violet’s thigh under the dinner table) and above all moving. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are strong role models, continuing in the face of adversity and never giving up, despite whatever horrors the world throws at them. The idea of having Lemony Snicket as an actual character in the books also adds a meta level to the whole thing and works wonders, as he is as cowardly as the Baudelaires are brave – or is he? We know so little about him – not even why he is recording these events – but he is always there, several steps behind or ahead of the action.

Perhaps my only complaint is the ending. It ends rather abruptly and there are hundreds of questions that remain unanswered. However, that is in keeping with the series. Snicket is careful not to reveal too much, or he assumes the people reading will know what he’s talking about. Much is never explained – a sugar bowl that the siblings chase for half of the series doesn’t even get a fleeting mention in the final book – but the whole thing works magically. Daniel Handler is a madman to have concieved such a convoluted plot as this, and maybe even he doesn’t have any answers to some of the questions.

It most definitely is a series of unfortunate events, but I feel fortunate that I have read them. And I think you should too.

“We Have Always Lived In The Castle” by Shirley Jackson (1962)

Leave a comment

castle“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood.”

Recommended by a friend (or, as she put it, “randomly purchased and forced upon me by a personal hero of mine”), We Have Always Lived In The Castle is a book that I knew very little about. Shirley Jackson, the author, is also someone that I had barely heard of. She doesn’t appear on those lists of “must read books”, and is apparently unwelcome in classrooms. I had no idea what to expect when I opened up Merricat and Constance’s story.

In the large Blackwood house lives Mary Katherine (known as Merricat), her older sister Constance and their unwell, elderly relative, Uncle Julian. The story opens with Merricat doing her shopping in the village, getting stared at and having to endure comments from the villagers. It soon becomes clear that darkness surrounds the Blackwood family. One night, six years ago, all but Merricat, Constance and Julian were killed – poisoned in the family home by arsenic in the sugar bowl. Constance was arrested but later acquitted. However, ill feeling spread in the village and no one trusted the family again. Constance retreated into herself, never leaving the house again, instead hiding away, taking occasional tea with Helen Clarke, the one person she could still consider a friend, and looking after her uncle.

Out of the blue one day, their cousin Charles turns up and decides that he’s going to move in to help the sisters return to normality. However, his motives are soon revealed to be different than what he first suggests, and Merricat must embark on some drastic action to ensure that her remaining family stay safe.

Short at less than 150 pages, the book is nonetheless haunting, eerieness permeating the pages. You never really know what to think, and there’s a sense that there’s something there, just hiding out of sight between the sentences and under the adjectives that you’re missing. Merricat and Constance are both incredibly damaged from the trauma in their history, but express it in different ways. Merricat enjoys burying things and, even though she is eighteen, still believes in magic and comes up with inventive, imaginative superstitions to protect her and her family. Constance seems to act like nothing has ever happened, indulging her sister in her every whim, and playing the doting nursemaid to dotty Uncle Julian. She goes as far as the vegetable garden but that is it. She was released as innocent, but knows that no one in the village believes her story.

The book touches, as mentioned, on superstitions and the nature of magic, and what we have the power to believe. The idea of Merricat being a witch isn’t too farfetched, especially given that she is followed everywhere by her black cat Jonas, who seems to perfectly understand everything she says. There is a moment where Julian declares to Charles that Merricat died along with the rest of the family, and for one heart-stopping second you believe that that could actually be the case. Has Constance gone entirely mad and still imagines she has any family left?

I saw the twist coming from miles off, but it is still cleverly done. The ending is strange, and shows one how those old wives tales of haunted houses and evil witches come about. It’s an interesting book, perhaps worth reading just for the chilling sense that Jackson leaves you with, tailing off the novel just when you want to find out what happens next…

“The Pirate Loop” by Simon Guerrier (2007)

Leave a comment

pirate loop“Six thousand robots danced through the streets of Milky-Pink City.”

Although I have mixed feelings about the genre of science fiction, I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Doctor Who. That’s probably because, as has been said before, it’s far more of a fairy story than a science fiction tale. There are many people happy to criticise the series for whatever reason, but there are many more who are willing to give it their all and prove that they love it. The 50th anniversary episode (and the fact that it is the first science fiction show to achieve a 50th anniversary) just went to show how much people care about the series and how invested people are in it. It is part of our culture – everyone, in Britain at least, knows what the TARDIS is, what Daleks are, and can probably name at least one of the Doctors.

I’ve read a couple of the books before, and embarked on this one, The Pirate Loop, with a hint of excitement, as it features the Tenth Doctor – a fabulous creation from David Tennant – and Martha Jones, a companion who seems to get a lot of flack from the fandom, for reasons I still don’t fully understand. As she only had one full season with the Doctor, it’s nice to get a few more of her adventures fleshed out. This one takes us to the fortieth century, a time where space piracy is all the rage, and there’s a war brewing somewhere in the galaxy.

The Starship Brilliant disappeared from history one day and no one, not even the Doctor, knows what happened to it. Theories range from suggesting it was destroyed in the first shots of the war, to the idea that it dropped into a black hole. Martha convinces a cagey Doctor to visit the starship and find out what exactly happened and why it vanished. The pair get more than they expect, however, when they stumble upon a cocktail party full of oval, tentacled aliens, a strange substance that looks like scrambled egg, and pirates with the faces of Earth badgers. As it turns out, the ship is being invaded, but, in typical Doctor Who fashion, time is a bit wibbly-wobbly, and things don’t make much sense. And then Martha gets shot, and it goes from bad to worse.

I’ve probably rattled on before about the difficulty in telling stories in different mediums (if I haven’t, then pretend I have – I’ve written over seventy of these now, I can’t remember everything!) but it’s quite pronounced here. Obviously, this adventure was never an episode of the series, but the characters are the same. However, with a novel you don’t get the immediacy of appearance, body language, gesture and tone. These things are explained out – they have to be – and that can slow things down. It sometimes feels like Guerrier is trying too hard to make the Doctor “the Doctor”. Ditto Martha.

It’s a great story, with typically Whovian technical gobbledegook that makes sense in context of the plot. It gives the Doctor a difficult decision, and it, like the best Doctor Who stories, blurs the lines between who is good and who is evil (for a comparable episode of the series, A Town Called Mercy is a good example of that theme). The resolution seems quick and a little sloppy – another one of those ones where the Doctor does something offscreen and it somehow fixes everything.

I think the books do well and remain interesting because they spend far more time with alien races and on alien planets than the show does, thanks to a lack of budgetry concerns. For that reason, I still like it, and it’s nice to see the Tenth Doctor and Martha again, but I’ve read better Doctor Who novels.

“Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan (2012)

6 Comments

Not enough hours in the day...

Not enough hours in the day…

“Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.”

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, or is generally reading this, that I absolutely adore bookstores. From the big corporate machines like Waterstone’s to grubby second-hand bookstores down back alleys, I love them all. I’ve been in stores that specialise in politics, or the paranormal. I’ve explored enormous labyrinthine buildings over several floors, or tiny one-room things with curious looking titles. I’ve climbed spiral staircases into dusty attics, and slipped down corridors to damp basements of leathery hardbacks. I even worked briefly in a university bookstore. I will never tire of them, that sense of thousands upon thousands of stories hidden away, waiting to reveal their secrets. And yet, I feel some disappointment, as I will never encounter a bookstore like Mr Penumbra’s.

Our narrator, Clay Jannon, is another one of those bright young things who has been left floundering by the recession. He was working for in web design for a bagel company, but they’ve gone belly up and he is now searching for something else to fill his hours and bank account. A chance encounter at a curious looking bookstore leads to him becoming the night clerk at Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. The owner is curious, old and blue-eyed, completely trusting of his staff, but the store itself is stranger still. The single shop room is perhaps thirty feet high, books climbing up into the rafters. There aren’t many traditional books here, mostly unreadable tomes, each branded with a single name.

Even stranger than the books and the store are the customers. They rarely seem to buy anything, just swap out their last book for the next one. Clay becomes curious, wondering what sort of operation is being run here, and he soon finds himself embroiled in a centuries old mystery that he can only crack with the help of his wealthy friend Neel, a pretty young Googler called Kat, and a series of books he adored as a child.

This book, both witty and frothy with fun and love, is a totally engaging read. It takes you from the first printing presses back in history’s depths, right up to the Googleplex, Google’s head office. Clay is a funny narrator, a nerd caught up in a mystery that’s bigger than he can even envision. However, while the characters are lovely and very wonderfully nerdy, it is actually the scenery that dominates this book. Without giving away too much, the places we visit here are the titular bookstore and the aforementioned Google HQ (which, from what I know about Google, seems pretty accurate and definitely believable), but also the offices of a secret society in the middle of New York, a museum dedicated to the science and history of knitting, a city inside a San Francisco apartment, and a subterranean storage facility that contains historical treasures that can’t fit into any above-ground museums. Each is described in beautiful, hypnotic, dazzling detail. I just want to get up and go and find these places.

It’s a book in which the old technology of books and printing presses mixes seemlessly with the modern world of WiFi and Kindles, where the two forms must combine forces and work together to solve the unsolvable. It is a book for anyone deeply passionate about books, but also anyone with a deep fascination for the future of technology, or even the Internet itself, or design! Actually, this is one of those books that I dare anyone not to love.

The right book exactly, at exactly the right time.

“Dionysus” by Walter F. Otto (1965)

5 Comments

13609

Welcome to the cult.

“All of antiquity extolled Dionysus as the god who gave man wine.”

Mythology is something that has always interested me, in particular the Greek myths. I’ve read a few stories about them, and I’m writing one too, so I thought it was about time I did some research and looked up the history behind one or two of them. At least, that’s what ended up happening – I didn’t quite plan it like that.

I bought this book under the assumption that it was about the myths and would tell me all the wacky adventures that my second favourite Greek god Dionysus (Hermes, in case you’re wondering) had got up to. He was the god of madness, hedonism and wine, after all, so there were bound to be some stories. What I instead got was basically a textbook that was more suited to someone reading classical studies.

I’m not going to even suggest that the book is a laugh a minute, but it actually turned out to be pretty interesting. Dionysus appears to be a late addition to the pantheon, although no one’s quite sure where he came from. He only became one of the Twelve Olympians because Hestia gave up her seat for him. He was actually half-mortal, the son of Zeus and human Semele, and was actually born from Zeus’ thigh. (Don’t ask.) Surrounded all his life by women, he threw parties and gave people the gift of wine to that they could let loose and forget their inhibitions. However, he was also the god of insanity, being insane himself, and provoking in his female followers an animalistic nature that caused them to eat their own sons.

He is associated with the bull, snake, panther and goat, and was notable for once entering the Underworld, finding his mother and bringing her back out again, a feat that no other god ever seemed to pull off. He was a symbol of life and death, and there exists a constant duality around his personality. Some believe that he and Hades were actually one and the same.

The book is intriguing and goes into some detail that I would otherwise never have found out, but at the end of the day, it is a textbook and so there are some very dry passages and also far too many untranslated Greek terms. Still, if you’re really into your mythology, it’s worth a skim.

This has been a niche post. Carry on.