Monday 27 September 2021

, , , , , , , ,

Review: Medusa by Jessie Burton

Medusa by Jessie Burton

I was sent this proof for free by Bloomsbury for the purposes of providing an honest review.

Links with an asterisk (*) are Ad: Affiliate Links, which means if you make a purchase through them, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Medusa by Jessie Burton

Published: 28th October 2021 | Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books | Source: Publisher
Jessie Burton's Website

A dazzling, feminist retelling of Greek myth from the internationally bestselling author of The Miniaturist, stunningly illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Exiled to a far-flung island by the whims of the gods, Medusa has little company except the snakes that adorn her head instead of hair. But when a charmed, beautiful boy called Perseus arrives on the island, her lonely existence is disrupted with the force of a supernova, unleashing desire, love, betrayal, and destiny itself.

Filled with glorious full-colour illustrations by award-winning Olivia Lomenech Gill, this astonishing retelling of Greek myth is perfect for readers of Circe and The Silence of the Girls. Illuminating the girl behind the legend, it brings alive Medusa for a new generation.
From Goodreads.

Purchase from*
The StoryGraph | Goodreads

Ovid's Medusa is one of the characters of Greek myth I'm most drawn to. Her story of being cursed to be a monster with snakes for hair and causing people to turn to stone by looking at her as punishment from Athena for being raped in her temple by Poseidon makes me so very angry. And there's so much of her story that is just so relatable, she's a character I feel a great kinship with. Because of this, I've always been on the lookout for a great retelling of her story, and Jessie Burton's Medusa doesn't do a bad job.

Burton's retelling is very much that; while it has the bones of Ovid's myth, it changes things around. It's been four years since Athena cursed Medusa, and she's an 18-year-old exiled on a rocky island on which she lives with her sisters and her dog. She has never seen any other living soul since then, until now. For a young man, Perseus has sailed to her rocky island, having got lost at sea on his way to complete a mission. With a rocky wall between them, the two get to know each other as they tell each other their stories; though Medusa's slowly, not revealing her true name, nor the snakes she has for hair or why he can't see her. Feelings develop very quickly between the two, and it's not long before Medusa is dreaming of a life different to the one she knows now.

Burton's story is a very feminist retelling. She has written the story in a way that makes it very related to the world we live in today; a world of impossible beauty standards, where a lot of a woman's worth is dependent on how attractive she is, a world where being too beautiful can lead to jealousy and abuse. It also shines a light on rape culture and victim blaming.

I loved how the conversations between Medusa and Perseus gave Medusa a voice, not just to tell her story, but to explain why what she has experienced is so awful, because he doesn't always seem to get it. Perseus tells Medusa his own story, and that of his mother, Danaë. How due to a prophecy that his grandson will kill him, Danaë's father locked her in a room, preventing her from marrying. How Zeus came to her with a bargain, that led to Danaë becoming pregnant, shut in a box by her father and dropped into the sea. And it takes Medusa to point out to Perseus just how awful Danaë's life was, and the terrible choices put in front of her.

But there's also more to Medusa's story than the terrible things she has suffered. In her retelling, Burton takes things a step further, and allows Medusa to grow from a place of loathing the way she looks, her internalised victim blaming, of believing that who she is isn't good enough, and that only through Perseus getting to know her without seeing her, will Perseus ever love her. In this story learns self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-love. That not only is this who she is now, but who she wants to be, snakes and all, and that should be good enough for Perseus, because it's definitely good enough for her.

I did have some issues with the story, though. The writing wasn't really for me. At times it felt like it was trying too hard to be poetic and literary, in a way that didn't feel natural, and just felt weird. I've read poetic young adult with purple prose before, it's not that I have a problem with, it's more than I just didn't feel it worked well here. And there are times, during conversation, when the language becomes almost too simplistic. The dialogue between Medusa and Perseus felt too young. Now, this isn't a case of me saying "the children are too much like children," I don't expect them to sound like adults. But Medusa is 18 and Perseus 17, and the way 18-year-olds talk is very different from the way 13-year-olds speak. In that sense, it felt too young. And both of these elements together felt kind of clunky to me.

Despite how the book is presented, Medusa is a very quick read. If it was printed like a novel, I'm pretty sure it would be a novella. And as most of the story is Medusa and Perseus talking over several days, not a huge amount actually happens. So because of the length alongside very little happening, Burton's story isn't really the retelling of Medusa I was hoping for.

It's still a great story, though. I bookmarked so many pages, because there are so many quotes that are just so universal, where Medusa so succinctly describes the experience of being a woman. Medusa is a very relevant and relatable story, that will resonate with a lot of women and girls. It's a story I'm sure will strike a chord with a lot of people.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for the proof.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following / supporting me:
Bloglovin' | Twitter | Goodreads | StoryGraph | Book Sloth | BookHype | Ko-Fi


Post a Comment