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The Children of Jocasta Paperback – 29 April 2021
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From Natalie Haynes, the Women's Prize shortlisted author of A Thousand Ships, comes The Children of Jocasta, a retelling of Oedipus and Antigone from the perspectives of the women the myths overlooked.
My siblings and I have grown up in a cursed house, children of cursed parents . . .
Jocasta is just fifteen when she is told that she must marry the King of Thebes, an old man she has never met. Her life has never been her own, and nor will it be, unless she outlives her strange, absent husband.
Ismene is the same age when she is attacked in the palace she calls home. Since the day of her parents' tragic deaths a decade earlier, she has always longed to feel safe with the family she still has. But with a single act of violence, all that is about to change.
With the turn of these two events, a tragedy is set in motion. But not as you know it.
'Haynes balances a fresh take on the material . . . giving new voice to the often-overlooked but fascinating Jocasta and Ismene.' - Madeline Miller, author of Circe.
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Haynes’s fascination with this long vanished world is evident in every line . . . Her Thebes... is vividly captured: a place of hard light and sharp shadows, dust, fountains and dry heat. ― Guardian
Natalie Haynes takes on Sophocles in her vivid and affecting second novel -- Fiction to look out for in 2017 ― Observer
Glorious, gripping and brutal . . . I loved it -- Victoria Derbyshire
New life is breathed into a powerful ancient story through Natalie Haynes's clever and vivid story telling. -- Martha Kearney
Nearly every page of Natalie Haynes's The Children of Jocasta could stand alone as poetry. This is a visceral, engrossing, and meticulously-crafted reimagining of two of the most important stories of all time. A truly remarkable feat -- Dr Amanda Foreman
In this gripping novel, Haynes takes us to the breaking heart of one epically dysfunctional family and makes heroines of those previously doomed to be spectators of their own tragedy -- Damian Barr, author of Maggie & Me
Haynes is master of her trade, crafting perfect sentences and believable characters who speak and think in delicately nuanced language. [She] succeeds in breathing warm life into some of our oldest stories to show how remarkably little basic human relationships and emotions have changed ― Telegraph
Atmospherically evoking a landscape of longed-for lakes and dark mountains, Haynes also subtly explores the “space between us and them” – between rulers and the people; parents and children; our personas and most secret selves ― Observer
A wonderful and inventive take on an ancient tale -- Antonia Senior ― The Times
Haynes has written her own version of the tragedy, finding new space in the narrative by looking at it through the eyes of two characters neglected by antiquity: Oedipus’s mother/bride Jocasta and their youngest daughter Ismene . . . Some of this novel’s greatest satisfactions come from the way Haynes translates the story out of the mythic and into a naturalistic register of love, loss and ambition . . . The ancient city state comes vividly alive in Haynes’s hands, and canny deviations from the archetypal outline keep the suspense going. In The Children of Jocasta, Haynes has written a fine new story between the old lines. ― Spectator
About the Author
- Publisher : Picador; New Edit/Cover edition (29 April 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1529057132
- ISBN-13 : 978-1529057133
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Dimensions : 13 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 9,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from United Kingdom
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The story is told in alternating chapters by two women, both more minor characters in the originals. Jocasta is a merchant's daughter who as a teenager is sent to marry an elderly king. Ismene is her youngest daughter, who picks up the story ten years after Jocasta's death. Both are interesting and sympathetic characters, but I particularly liked Ismene. The story they tell is not a happy one (they don't call them Greek tragedies for nothing) but is compelling and well spun out.
Haynes writes really well, with an easy, accessible style that is always enjoyable. There's no need to know anything about ancient Greece or the original myths to be able to appreciate the book - in fact I suspect it might be a bonus not to know too much. Certainly I was able to enjoy it in a way I might not have if I'd had more preconceptions about how the story 'should have' gone.
But if readers can put aside their feelings about any previous versions, then this should be enjoyable as a compelling and well written novel set in a civilisation whose remarkable sophistication sat alongside the harshness of life in such ancient times.