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Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths

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The Greek myths are one of the most important cultural foundation-stones of the modern world.

Stories of gods and monsters are the mainstay of epic poetry and Greek tragedy, from Homer to Virgil to from Aeschylus to Sophocles and Euripides. And still, today, a wealth of novels, plays and films draw their inspiration from stories first told almost three thousand years ago. But modern tellers of Greek myth have usually been men, and have routinely shown little interest in telling women’s stories.

Now, in Pandora’s Jar, Natalie Haynes – broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist – redresses this imbalance. Taking Greek creation myths as her starting point and then retelling the four great mythic sagas: the Trojan War, the Royal House of Thebes, Jason and the Argonauts, Heracles, she puts the female characters on equal footing with their menfolk. The result is a vivid and powerful account of the deeds – and misdeeds - of Hera, Aphrodite, Athene and Circe. And away from the goddesses of Mount Olympus it is Helen, Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Antigone and Medea who sing from these pages, not Paris, Agamemnon, Orestes or Jason.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2020

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About the author

Natalie Haynes

19 books3,662 followers
Natalie Haynes, author of THE FURIES (THE AMBER FURY in the UK), is a graduate of Cambridge University and an award-winning comedian, journalist, and broadcaster. She judged the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and was a judge for the final Orange Prize in 2012. Natalie was a regular panelist on BBC2’s Newsnight Review, Radio 4’s Saturday Review, and the long-running arts show, Front Row. She is a guest columnist for the The Independent and The Guardian. Her radio series, Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, was first broadcast in March 2014.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,872 reviews
Profile Image for Sara.
1,080 reviews359 followers
August 9, 2020
ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

A wonderful feminist discussion into various women at the heart of the Greek myths. These are women who are often overshadowed by the male heroes of their own stories, yet Haynes manages to bring them to life and give them a voice that has long been forgotten. These are women who originally are described as intelligent warriors, fearless and resourceful, and ultimately let down by their husbands, lovers and the Gods. Their stories have been warped over time to diminish them, force them into the background and cast them as villains and monsters. It was incredibly refreshing to see them in a new, more positive light. Haynes's writing is also incredibly accessible and humorous at times too, making the myths and information she pulls from easy to follow and understand. I personally don't think you need to have a deep understanding of these myths going into the book, although it's obviously beneficial.

I am really enjoying this resurgence of the Greek myths told from a woman's perspective (such as Haynes novel A Thousand Ships and Miller's Circe) and I'm now desperate for a Medusa or Medea retelling. As part of this review, I've included a few words and thoughts on each woman's story. If you don't want to know which Greek heroines are found within Haynes book, don't read on.

Pandora - Because obviously all bad things in the world are the fault of women (see also: Eve).

Jocasta - with the least amount of info, she still manages to figure out Oedipus is her son before he does. And pays the highest price for it.

Helen - beautiful face. Obviously men decided the Trojan war was her fault. Surprisingly intelligent, and could easily spar with Odysseus. Pretty sure she picked Menelaus because he's so stupid.

Medusa - perhaps the ultimate misunderstood and badly represented of the Greek women. Demonstrates the sexualised fear and misogynistic objectification of strong females in the myths. Myths retold by angry white men.

Amazons - the ultimate woman tribe. Women supporting women, bolstering each other up. It's interesting to see the differences between the original texts and how they've been perverted over time (again, by fragile white men) and the parallels with modern day counterparts like Wonder Woman and Buffy.

Clytemnestra - Agamemnon's wife. Iphegenia's mother. Clever and cunning, she bows to no man in her quest for revenge. Again, she's the image every man fears - a dominant, intelligent woman who can think for herself.

Eurydice - Orpheus's shadow. Lover. Muse. Has a history steeped in sacrifice that had been warped to instead reflect Orpheus's tale. Eurydice has instead been stripped of her voice and desires. Is it Orpheus's selfishness rather than love that pulls her from peace in the Underworld? Because no-one asks Eurydice for her opinion.

Phaedra - with Phaedra's story we enter into the discussion of sexual violence against women, and the removal of said violence in later texts to keep the shine on the male Greek heroes. Theseus is not a nice man. He's a serial rapist who seems to delight in making his way through women. Yet it's Phaedra who is vilified and remembered for her instigation of rape myth and false allegations. No less serious, but we seem to conveniently forget or romanticise the rape of women.

Medea - Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. All consuming in her power, passion and need for revenge, Medea is one hell of a woman. With the talent to beguile, she is woefully underestimated by every man she crosses and her pursuit of vengeance knows no bounds. I mean, this is the woman who cuts up her little brother to stop her father pursuing her lover, Jason. The woman has no boundaries.

Penelope - the Greek wife of Odysseus who is forever put on the pedestal as the perfect wife. Patiently and faithfully waiting 20 years for her husband to return, while using her wits to keep suitors at bay. She's often seen as the woman to pit against every other woman to be found lacking. Yet through the years she's been whittled down to a fraction of who she is. Where has the intelligent woman who ruled alone while raising a child gone?

To reiterate: a great feminist look at several important and colourful women throughout the Greek myths. I also appreciated the many, many Clash of the Titans references. My childhood heart swelled with nostalgia at the mention of Bubo the owl. Highly recommend for lovers of the classic myths.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,123 reviews30.2k followers
March 31, 2022
This is such a smart and fascinating explanation and retelling by scholar Natalie Haynes. She is also a comic, and you can feel her sense of humor in this highly readable nonfiction text tackling multiple myths; the humor makes it truly stand out.

I took Classics in college, and I absolutely loved it. I can only imagine, if I’d had access to a text like this along with an illuminating discussion, how much it would have added to my experience. I hope that Classics’ professors today are employing nonfiction works by Haynes and other scholars to round out the stories with different viewpoints.

Overall, I enjoyed this in-depth nonfiction narrative and hope Natalie Haynes has more mythology to re-dress (readdress? Retell!) with us. I can’t wait to read A Thousand Ships, which I have on my shelf; a story about the women of the Trojan War.

I received a gifted copy.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Sujoya (theoverbookedbibliophile).
428 reviews945 followers
March 29, 2022
Happy Publication Day! (U.S.) March 29, 2022

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Perennial for providing a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 4.5⭐️

Having read and loved 'A Thousand Ships' by Natalie Haynes I was eagerly looking forward to reading 'Pandora’s Jar : Women in the Greek Myths' and I was not disappointed!

The author describes Greek myths as “protean” stating that they operate in different timelines- the one in which they are set and the timelines of the subsequent versions and retellings. Each chapter in this book is devoted to a female character from the Greek myths and the author draws from multiple sources to discuss how these characters have been presented, represented and interpreted over the years. Chapters are dedicated to Pandora, Jocasta, Helen, Medusa, The Amazons, Clytemnestra, Eurydice, Phaedra, Medea and Penelope. Popular opinion and numerous translators and interpreters have defined these women and their roles in the myths -whether regarded as famous or infamous, labeled and judged as good (Penelope) or bad (Clytemnestra) and in many cases, held responsible for events that had more powerful forces at play (Medusa, Pandora, Helen) or marginalized and relegated to the background in the role of mother or wife (Jocasta), all the while waxing eloquent about the heroic exploits of their male counterparts. But as Haynes explains it, these women are so much more than a unidimensional presence in those stories, the narrative perspectives of which may differ depending upon the writer, narrator or translator. The author provides a broad overview of how these characters have been depicted in not only literature but art, theatre, music and film and the ensuing discussion of how and why these depictions and interpretations vary makes for an absorbing read.

Haynes references the works of Hesiod, Homer, Ovid, Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles and other sources while also eloquently describing some surviving antiquarian artifacts and relatively newer artwork (paintings, sculptures etc) depicting the characters and scenes from the various versions of the Greek myths. The child friendly versions of the myths as presented by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Roger Lancelyn Green are also discussed in the context of how authors choose to whitewash the not-so-heroic exploits of popular heroes in order to emphasize the virtues of said character. I also enjoyed the more contemporary references interspersed in the discussions ranging from cinematic renderings such as Clash of the Titans and the more recent Wonder Woman franchise to how the myths have influenced select works of Dame Agatha Christie as well as characters and episodes from Star Trek or Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even Beyonce.

It should be noted that Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths is not a 'retelling' or 'reimagining' of the myths in the strictest terms but an insightful exploration into the different versions of the characters that have been presented through the ages. Smart, witty, engaging and brilliantly researched, Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes is a joy to read for fans of Greek mythology and especially those with an interest in learning more about the women in the myths. I loved the details of the art and artifacts described in each of the chapters and wished that there could have been more pictures embedded with the text. I found myself looking these up on the internet and that truly enriched my reading experience. Not only does Natalie Haynes explore how and why these women and their stories have been defined the way they have but in doing so also motivates you to question your own observations understanding of the women (and the men) in the Greek myths. While I enjoyed all the chapters in the book, I have to mention that those devoted to Pandora, Medusa and The Amazons were my favorites.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,421 followers
February 11, 2021
Classicist Natalie Haynes has penned this extraordinarily interesting non-fiction in the hope of addressing some of the prejudice and inaccuracies forced upon some of mythology's female figures. These women are often relegated to the side-lines of the story, and when they are granted an extended focus it is for their role as either the mother, the sinner, or the monster. Sometimes all three at once. But was this always the case and, if so, just why are women depicted as behaving in such a narrow spectrum?

This was such an incredible feminist insight to some of mythology's most infamous females. Ten mythological figures were each granted their own chapter in which to explore their character creation, the variations that abounded in different texts, and their modern-day relevance. It remained light and witty in tone and yet provided an abundance of information on each figure and the stories they stemmed from.

Time spent inside these pages flew just as quickly as it does when I am immersed in fiction, so compelling was Haynes' focus and narrative style. This was a flawless creation and it is my ardent wish that this volume will become just one instalment in a series of similar creations. I still have much to learn about mythology and I want only this author to illuminate the past for me.
Profile Image for Emma.
974 reviews975 followers
September 16, 2020
Anyone who has read A Thousand Ships, shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction this year, will know that Natalie Haynes is deeply interested in giving voice to the women of Greek myth. But what some might not know is that she's also an incredible classicist and a comedian. Now, these two things go together better than you might imagine. If you follow her Instagram or listen to her podcast 'Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics' (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b077...), you will already know this. If you haven't checked these out and you have even the slightest interest in the classics, definitely do so. You've got a real treat waiting for you. Her recent videos on the Ovid's Heroides, which happen to be my favourite Latin poems, were fascinating and funny. It brings me joy to see them brought to a wider audience with such skill and enthusiasm. Natalie Haynes is truly one of the best advocates for what classics can be, a subject for all.

This book is a perfect example. The image we have of these women is often quite different from the earlier versions, transformed by time and misogyny. Myths are by their very nature changeable, but for some reason the women get a bad rap. What this book offers is a peek behind the curtain, a witty analysis of the ways in which representations of these mythic women have been altered, misused, misunderstood. Not only is it well-researched and engaging, it's laugh out loud funny in parts. The section on Leda is magnificent. If anything in this review should convince you to buy this book, then let it be your excitement about how woman/swan sex is explained. You won't regret it. I highlighted approximately half the book. And I loved everything about it.

ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
796 reviews583 followers
June 25, 2022
Probably not the right shelf. I'll ponder this.

Well, I've pondered & decided this book is a literary criticism. Ms Haynes takes us on a journey through the myths of Ancient Greeks, giving the feminine point of view & attempting a rescue of some much maligned reputations. She also shows us how often the (male) classical writers managed to show the female actions in the most unfavorable light.

This dedication sets Ms Haynes tone;

For my mum, who has always thought that a woman with an axe was more interesting than a princess

Another quote about my favourite - Medea;

As we saw with Clytemnestra, there were few things more alarming to ancient Greek men than the machinations of a clever woman, and Medea is the cleverest of them all.

I do love me some Pre-Raphaelite art.

The book manages to be both deep and light and witty - quite a good trick!

I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't re-read this book before the end of this year, I loved it so much!

Profile Image for Lucy.
415 reviews609 followers
April 17, 2021
Classicist and stand-up comedian, Natalie Haynes, delves into Greek Myth- particularly the women of Greek myth and I know I just had to read this book.

This book explores 10 female myths, from their origins and variations, as well as how their roles have changed over the years and modern day interpretations. It was also great to see what artefacts remains depicting these women; whose stories are lost to us (from writing), bringing to question how these women were depicted/talked about during Ancient Greek times. It’s interesting to see how their roles have been morphed often to only being relegated to a sideline character, compared to the main male hero (think Medea in the movie Jason and the Argonauts).

I had some favourites especially! I loved the chapter on Medusa and the Gorgons (I also love the artefacts of the gorgons with their huge tusks, etc). I loved the chapter on Eurydice (and Alcestis) and their time in the underworld, often these are not the more “famous” women of Greek myth, so it was great to see someone explore them.

While I enjoyed both the sections on The Amazon’s and Medea, I found these sections delved/dragged on when comparing to modern day examples (eg I found the Amazon section had too much exploration of Buffy).

I also a appreciate a good Theseus and Jason bashing, and Natalie Haynes does this fantastically (they are the WORST). She also sings praises of Euripides, a play write who wrote many plays focusing on the women from Greek myth (there are probably more but these are lost to us). Medea is particularly a favourite of mine by him.

Throughout this book Natalie Haynes infused her own wit and sarcasm throughout this book which I really enjoyed.
I love her Podcast (show?) of “Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics”- it’s brilliant and funny and suffused with wit, it’s almost as if I could hear her voice in my head when reading this book as I just love her show.
Profile Image for saïd.
6,164 reviews703 followers
April 30, 2023
The dedication of this book begins:
For my mum, who has always thought a woman with an axe was more interesting than a princess
which is approximately the moment I suspected I would not agree with this book’s worldview.

I’m uncertain what the intended audience of this book is. For someone who’s studied the classics and/or ancient Greek mythology, hardly anything new will be gained from this book, which is largely occupied with broad retellings of well-known myths (often through a more ‘feminist’—or woman-centric, at least—lens), descriptions of various adaptations of said myths (film, stage, art, etc.; notably lacking in photographs or illustrations), and a lot of transliterated Ancient Greek words, most of which are defined, none of which include the original spelling. For a layperson unfamiliar with the field, the summaries of most myths are too unspecific to be generally enlightening—not to mention overly reliant on niche references and allusions that would be lost to the uninitiated—and much of the linguistic detail, along with the contextual references, involves field-dependent jargon and information. Much of the book was occupied with asking interesting questions, but without even attempting the somewhat-more-labourious task of actually answering them. The parts about Phaedra were mostly decent, particularly the discussion of rape. The parts about Penelope were also mostly good. The parts about Eurydike were mostly bad. I wrote some more stuff in my status updates while reading, but I don’t really feel like assembling that into a coherent review. It was fine. It was whatever.
Profile Image for Nikita Gill.
Author 22 books4,711 followers
January 3, 2021
Natalie Haynes is back with this eloquent, witty and powerful book about women from Greek mythology. We meet Pandora, Jocasta, Helen, Medusa and many more women who haven’t had their stories told this way, a way where every version of them is acknowledged, analysed, juxtaposed and most importantly humanised. Haynes provides us with every one of their myths and changes the perspective to add to their stories, giving us far more fully fleshed out characters. It’s interesting how much more three dimensional these mythological women become when their stories are being told by a writer who addresses their tales with warmth and nuance. Haynes touches on the works of playwrights like Euripides and Sophocles, art from Michaelangelo and brings in revelations from Pseudo Apollodorus and Aeschylus among many others to invoke a deeper meaning to the stories of the women we think we know.

Fascinating and spellbinding, I’ll be recommending this book to everyone I know.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,302 reviews385 followers
April 6, 2022
I knew going into the audiobook that it was going to be interesting but I wasn't prepared on how emersed and focused I would be in her tellings of women in Greek mythology. It was so well told and excellent narrated and very interesting to listen as I coloured in my boos or what not. Have noticed I'm a lot more intrigued in learning in women's history than I pick up but definitely need to find more books in those topics
Profile Image for Trish.
1,927 reviews3,402 followers
August 28, 2022
I came across this author when Waterstones told me they had this special signed edition of her latest book. Since I still have to wait for this book to arrive here, I checked for others and stumbled upon her previous publications. So now I'm reading the three that appealed to me the most - two fictions and this non-fiction.

We are told about 10 of the most famous women in Greek mythology:

1) Pandora

2) Jocasta

(this is kinda a weird depiction of Jocasta, but I find the artwork beautiful so I'm using it)

3) Helen

4) Medusa

5) Amazons

6) Clytemnestra

7) Eurydice

8) Phaedra

9) Medea

10) Penelope

We learn about every woman's story through the different versions of the Greek myths they feature in. But the author then also critically examines each version and puts it into context. This goes for ancient sources as well as later ones right up until modern incarnations. And yes, on top of poetry collections, Hollywood movie and TV show versions are referenced as well. *lol*

Especially remarkable was the reference to what had actually been done to French women after WW2 (their hair was shorn off and they were sometimes even disfigured to make them less beautiful in punishment for having been desirable to the enemy), which was basically what had been done to Medusa and perhaps to Helen, too - be it out of blame or to protect them.
And then there was the almost effortless incorporation of the examination of rape (looked at from a historical viewpoint as well as current figures), of men and women alike, in the context of real rapes vs. false allegations.
Most authors never go this far, though they should.

It shows how thoroughly at home the author is in Greek mythology and how vast her knowledge. Unsurprisingly, since the author is a journalist and has been on several podcasts and BBC programs about history and the classics for years.

This book never tries to lay blame on anyone in particular, no matter how morally wrong decisions made and actions taken were (see the example of the shorn or even mutilated women above) or how misogynistic most depictions have been. After all, it's not about payback but about elucidation.
Which is why the author manages to point out what has been and still is wrong by elaborating the difference in how women were shown and treated compared to how men were. This includes delicious logic errors being pointed out (many of which have irked me ever since I started reading mythology) and offers possible alternatives that were never addressed in the myths. However, that is all done without preaching or even screeching - she's scientifically detached and that is what I think I appreciated the most about this book.

Nevertheless, HOW you tell people about history and mythology goes a long way to get people interested and hold their interest, and this author has a wonderful writing style and narration (she reads the audiobook herself).

A thoroughly researched and detailed book that was erudite and fascinating from start to finish.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,709 reviews396 followers
May 13, 2021
Haines spends too much time analysing what playwrights did with females from Greek mythology and then extrapolating it to mean that's the actual historical reality of the period, which is a poor way to prove her claims, especially when she uses people like Euripides, a fiction writer who wasn't exactly "the norm" in his interpretations.
Profile Image for Nada Elshabrawy.
Author 2 books8,180 followers
February 3, 2023
الكتاب عبارة عن اعادة حكي "من التاريخ" لنسخ مختلفة عن قصص النساء في الميثولوجيا الإغريقية. لم تخترع ناتلي هاينس تأويلاتها الخاصة لما نعرفه، وانما صدمتنا بأن ما نعرفه ليس ديمًا هو الحقيقة، أو على أقل تقدير ليس هو الحقيقة الوحيدة وإن كان قد تم تصويرها وكأنها ذلك عمدًا.

أقرأ الكتاب وأنا أفكر في بلادي التي تُسجن فيها الفتيات لتقديم فيديوهات على تيك توك، وتقتل فيها من حين لأخر بدوافع الشرف والعار والعاطفة، ولا أستطيع فصل الميثولوجيتين عن بعض.

هام وينصح به.
Profile Image for NILTON TEIXEIRA.
825 reviews258 followers
April 30, 2023
It was like a documentary and a collection of short stories.
Not what I expected after reading “Stone Blind”.
I was very disappointed.
Profile Image for rose ✨.
179 reviews93 followers
April 13, 2022
“when women take up space, there is less available for men. but it means we get a whole story instead of half of one.”

pandora’s jar is a compassionate, thorough examination of the remarkable women in greek mythology. haynes draws on both classical and contemporary tellings of these myths to explore why and how these fascinating, nuanced women have often been reduced to stereotypes—“villains, victims, wives and monsters”—while still remaining entertaining and accessible to readers.

thank you to netgalley for the arc!

rating: 4.5/5.0 stars
806 reviews2 followers
June 6, 2021
My problem with this book is perfectly explained by Natalie Haynes at the end of the Penelope chapter, assuming there is a one valid interpretation of the Greek myths is a mistake, but she spends a lot of the earlier chapters complaining about wrong interpretations of the women of these myths.
I found I got annoyed at the long descriptions of art works, which didn’t really give me an idea why she thought many of the pieces were important, and I could simply google the actual images anyway. A lot of the text is drawn out retelling of various versions of the myths in plays or films, but didn’t add much to my understanding of the characters.
The basic point of the book seems to be that there are lots of versions of Greek myths and the role of the women changes depending on the version. It tries to dress it up in a feminist agenda that claims that these women are somehow belittled in their place in myth, but as you’re reading a book about some major characters in the myths that just happen to be female, it’s hard to follow the argument.
Natalie Haynes obviously loves Greek myths, and has done in-depth research, but this book doesn’t seem to know quite what it wants to be.
Profile Image for Rums.
189 reviews11 followers
August 4, 2020
This was a well researched and impressive book, but just to note this is a non fiction piece of work which delves into the histories and different representations of a variety of women in Greek myth and legend, such as Helen, Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Medusa and many more. I feel like you have to have a fairly good knowledge of Greek plays and myths prior to reading this book but if you're able to keep up with the references and different stories then it shouldn't pose too much of an issue. I wanted to enjoy this more but I found myself skim reading some of the chapters as other figures were more interesting to me. This book gave me more of an anthology sort of feel where some chapters peaked my interest more than others so bear this in mind.
Profile Image for Tamara Agha-Jaffar.
Author 6 books247 followers
June 28, 2022
Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes explores ten famous women in classical mythology by dedicating a chapter to each woman.

Beginning with Pandora and concluding with Penelope, Haynes examines the literary sources of these mythological figures, their various appearances in classical plays, poems, and artifacts, as well as their more recent manifestations in art, music, theatre, and film. Her exploration includes Jocasta, Helen of Troy, Medusa, Clytemnestra, Eurydice, Phaedra, Medea, and the Amazons.

By exploring their representation in various classical works, Haynes expands our understanding of these figures. Her interrogation demonstrates their contradictory portrayals even within the classical period. They were used as scapegoats for the failings of men; as tools to implement a god’s vengeance; punished for being victims of male aggression; outsmarting their male counterparts; unfairly depicted as villains and monsters; and blamed for situations over which they had no control. She fleshes out these women, giving them voice and a nuanced portrayal.

Among the classical playwrights, Euripides emerges as a favorite for writing strong roles for women and for placing them center stage instead of relegating them to the margins. He gives voice to their suffering and subordinate status as no other classical writer has done. His Medea is praised for its portrayal of a brilliant, scheming woman whose speeches about the position of women in patriarchy continue to resonate centuries later.

Haynes is well-versed in the classics. She provides a broad outline of the texts in which each of the women appear. And then she interrogates the text and poses questions to challenge the predominant lens of male privilege. She peppers her analysis with Greek and Latin words, translating them and explaining their linguistic ambiguities. She argues our perspective on these women has been colored by centuries of a skewed interpretation of language influenced by a misogynistic lens. She aims to encourage a re-visioning of these women and offers a new and invigorating re-interpretation of their role in mythology.

Haynes’ feminist analysis of these famous women in classical texts is accessible, lively, and peppered with humor and wit. Although her extensive knowledge of classical literature is apparent, she doesn’t weigh the work down with heavy scholarship. Her language is accessible and engaging; her interpretations are provocative and refreshing. She challenges the reader to re-visit the women in classical mythology with a fresh look and a more nuanced and balanced lens.

Highly recommended.

My book reviews are also available at www.tamaraaghajaffar.com
Profile Image for exploraDora.
541 reviews256 followers
March 31, 2023
There's something about Natalie Haynes' writing that I just love - she has this way of telling stories that pulls me in every time and makes me want to listen to her for hours. Which I guess is exactly what I did now, as I listened to the audiobook.

Complete review to come.
Profile Image for Roomies' Digest.
246 reviews748 followers
February 18, 2022
4.5 ⭐️


Completely unexpected, but so SO good if you are at all interested in Greek mythology and the stories behind the women throughout. More thoughts in our NetGalley vlog out at the end of the month, but BRAVO. Very impressed.

Profile Image for Inkspill.
396 reviews38 followers
February 26, 2023
2023 Review
After listening to Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes, I revisited the chapter on Medusa in my kindle to find myself reading this one all over again.

After an introduction, Natalie Haynes shares her views and retells these stories with sources, different versions and modern interpretations. There are ten chapters in the book, it starts with Pandora and ends with Penelope.

Natalie Haynes reminds me how Pandora can’t be held for all the world’s evil’s just because she opened a jar, a jar by the way that crops up later. Or how Penelope is sharp as Odysseus in how she duped the suitors. Or maybe Eurydice did not want to return with Orpheus and was quite happy to stay in Hades. Or maybe Helen was never there to cause of the Trojan war. And maybe Madea, Phaedra, Clytemnestra, Penthesilea , Jocasta and Medusa are also all portrayed unjustly.

Making this not only a useful reference to keep referring back to, but also an entertaining read.

2022 Review
This is the book I needed when I was starting to read Greek myths, especially in play form. The book covers 10 well known female characters, including Clytemnestra and Medusa, each are covered in depth with their own chapter. The book is loaded with info that kept me engaged and interested. I also liked how Natalie Haynes ran through different versions of the story (and reference the Greek text) to show how representation of heroines from Greek myths have gotten skewwhiff.

I also enjoyed how it highlighted cultural attitudes by showing how stories were adapted to fit their own times. It did all this in less than 300 pages, where at no point I felt I was reading a dry boring book.
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
983 reviews113 followers
November 11, 2021
I've read Natalie Haynes' fiction books A Thousand Ships and The Children of Jocasta before. I enjoyed both of these books, one more than the other, but I didn't nearly love them as much as I did Pandora's Jar, which is a nonfiction about women in the Greek myths. It was absolutely a brilliant read!

It's no secret that I love Greek mythology (and literally anything about the ancient Mediterranean world). I also just feel so happy that in the past few years the whole topic of Greek mythology has become very popular and us who are obsessed with it all have gotten lots of content to devour. On the downside you start to think when there's a new book related to Greek myth that you might not enjoy it as much since you've already read so much of it but that certainly wasn't the case with this one.

Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths has chapters about Pandora, Jocasta, Helen, Medusa, The Amazons, Clytemnestra, Eurydice, Phaedra, Medea and Penelope. Each and every chapter was really fascinating to read but I did have my favorites. I really loved the ones about Pandora, Medusa, The Amazons, Eurydice and Medea. I'm so glad they all got their chance to shine in this book! A rather unexpected part of the women's stories and Natalie Haynes' voice was the humor which was somewhat dry. I totally loved that because that's exactly my type of humor too. It often made me go heh :)

So forget about Achilles, Theseus, Odysseus, Herakles, Jason and all those so-called heroes! Natalie Haynes is here to give the women in the Greek myths a voice, which is something they deserve after thousands and thousands of years of being silenced.
Profile Image for Li ☾.
504 reviews46 followers
November 7, 2022
“Myths may be the home of the miraculous, but they are also mirrors of us. Which version of a story we choose to tell, which characters we place in the foreground, which ones we allow to fade into the shadows: these reflect both the teller and the reader, as much as they show the characters of the myth. We have made space in our story-telling to rediscover women who have been lost or forgotten. They are not villains, victims, wives and monsters: they are people.”

After reading and loving A Thousand ships I could not wait to pick this one up and whilst it is more of a non-fiction read compared to A thousand ships, it was just as brilliant! Haynes knowledge and passion of Greek myths just radiates through her books ... always so well researched and perfectly detailed they never disappoint.

In pandoras Jar Haynes gives a brief but in-depth feminist exploration of ten notable women from Greek myth (Pandora, Jocasta, Helen, Medusa, The Amazon’s, Clytemnestra, Eurydice, Phaedra, Medea and Penelope) and not only was it fascinating, insightful and just utterly captivating, it was also surprisingly quite funny at times too. I loved it!
I also enjoyed the more modern references throughout the book, such as Beyonce, Star Trek, Orange is the new black, Clash of the Titans and my favourite being the Amazons chapter where Haynes compares the Amazon warriors such as Penthesilea to Buffy the vampire Slayer.

Without a doubt and recommended read from me for all who love Greek mythology - especially if you already have quite a bit of knowledge of Greek mythology and these particular characters and their stories.
An insightful, clever and witty read!
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,121 reviews1,203 followers
November 7, 2022
3.5 stars

Did I find this to be a particularly original or incisive work of scholarship? No.

Did I nevertheless get something out of it? Yes.

Did I enjoy reading it? Yes.

Natalie Haynes is a classicist who has dipped into the feminist mythological retelling craze herself, and this nonfiction work is worth a read if, like me, you’re interested in learning a bit more about the women portrayed in Greek myths and how they’ve been reinterpreted over the years. A key takeaway is that while some of these women were sidelined or poorly treated by ancient authors, in many cases they were actually complex, sympathetic and/or powerful figures, who have in fact been watered down, dehumanized or sidelined in 19th and 20th century versions of their stories rather than by the Greeks themselves.

Much of the book consists of simply describing portrayals of particular myths, recounting the plays of Euripides (this was my favorite part—at least in Haynes’s interpretation of them, the women in these plays were vibrant and complex characters, and the stories are quite compelling) or describing vase paintings (there is an egregious lack of color plates in this book, forcing readers to turn to the internet for the visual art described). The pointing out of misogyny is generally pretty obvious, the modern works Haynes relates to the classics don’t always seem to merit the space she gives them, and the informal tone can be a bit jarring. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it as a fun, unchallenging work of nonfiction that left me conversant on the content and development of stories I knew nothing about before. It has definitely given me direction on which retellings I want to seek out.

There are 10 essays here, and I’ve ordered them by how much I now want to read retellings focused on these characters:

1-3: The villains, of course! Clytemnestra, Medea and Phaedra all sound like fascinating characters, though a Phaedra retelling would perhaps work better as a movie or novella than a novel. But the biggest challenge for a modern author would be not whitewashing them, morally speaking (except perhaps Clytemnestra, who depending on your interpretation of her motives, was pretty sympathetic to begin with).

4: The Amazons: This is a single chapter, because they were generally depicted more as a team than individuals. They fought as a unit and were considered the equals of male warriors, though in the wars they always seemed to lose. I’d love to see someone take them on in fiction, but an author who would do serious research on the setting and not focus on (heterosexual) romance—Nicola Griffith, perhaps.

5: Medusa: In Haynes’s telling, she was always pure victim—turned into a monster as punishment for being raped, went to live in a remote cave to avoid harming anyone with her curse (accompanied by her sisters, who were unaffected), then murdered in her sleep by some douche whose stepfather sent him on a quest to have a clearer path to his mom. Haynes has in fact written this retelling, and I’m interested.

6: Penelope: More than just the perfect, long-suffering wife, she’s very clever beneath the surface, and keeps her secrets close. Perhaps one of the harder ones to mess up, as long as the author gets the voice right.

7: Helen: There are some interesting variations on Helen’s story (in one, she never went to Troy at all—that was just a simulacrum, and she was safely in Egypt the whole time!), and some telling details about her relationships with Paris’s family. I also didn’t know about her kidnapping as a young girl. This retelling seems difficult to do in a way that would interest me, though also a potential crowd-pleaser.

8: Jocasta: I’m not sure why this section came so early in the book; while it’s interesting to view the Oedipus story from the mom’s perspective, and some of the details are quite telling when you think about them, the character doesn’t generally seem to have had much substance.

9: Eurydice: Has even less substance, though those modern poems from the perspective of a Eurydice who wasn’t that into Orpheus sound like fun.

10: Pandora: The Eve parallel is notable, and the discussion about culpability worth having, though the character herself doesn’t sound very interesting. A bit of trivia: Pandora originally had a jar, not a box; that was a later mistranslation.

Because all the characters in Greek myth seem to intersect, I’ve also now learned enough to know that I don’t care about Ariadne (young woman finds hormones to override sense, the end?). Interestingly, Haynes’s feminism definitely does not extend to goddesses (except perhaps Persephone), who are often at fault for mortal women’s plights. While that’s a reasonable line to draw, I’d be interested in reading more about how they’ve been depicted and interpreted over the years, and why certain portrayals might have developed. I’d never thought of Athena as an embodiment of “not like other girls,” but her favorites really are always men, aren’t they?
Profile Image for David.
14 reviews
April 26, 2023
I loved that Pandora’s Jar felt like a critical companion piece to Stephen Fry’s Heroes, not afraid to delve deeper into the female perspectives that are so often omitted from these male-dominated narratives.

I was shocked to learn that I had never consciously heard about Penelope, despite her being Odysseus’ wife. Or that Jocasta (Oedipus’ mother and wife) resembled a Cersei-like political ruler in Euripides’ The Phoenician Women whereas Sophocles took this agency away from her and wrote a much more passive version of her.

Haynes explores how playwrights throughout the ages have stripped originally fierce female characters of their more complex layers and offers us a more nuanced look into the untold stories of these women in the Greek myths. She does so with so much and passion that it’s hard not to feel engaged with the content she presents.
Profile Image for Chantal .
337 reviews825 followers
May 4, 2022
Natalie Haynes is the queen of Greek mythology and I want to read everything she has published. Her and Madeline Miller are true gems in this space.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,288 reviews395 followers
September 13, 2022
In 10 separate chapters, Natalie Haynes profiles 9 women from Greek mythology and three of the Amazons in the other chapter. For the most part, the profiled women are secondary or tertiary characters, and Haynes draws on her extensive research to provide thoughtful commentary, often drawing parallels into more modern settings. She also often refers to pottery images and imagery from museums around the world. One of her primary conclusions is that women were often blamed for the shortcomings of male characters, usually unfairly, such as Helen being responsible for the Trojan war when, in fact, she was a victim of kidnapping. I found the book slow and often providing too much detail.
Profile Image for Athena of Velaris.
483 reviews131 followers
June 14, 2022
A wonderful collection of nonfiction essays about various women in classical mythology, Pandora's Jar was fascinating from start to finish. With wit, charm, nerdiness, and just the right amount of raging feminism, there is very little I would change. Of course, I can't summarize this book better than the author herself:

“Every myth contains multiple timelines within itself: the time in which it is set, the time it is first told, and every retelling afterwards. Myths may be the home of the miraculous, but they are also mirrors of us. Which version of a story we choose to tell, which characters we place in the foreground, which ones we allow to fade into the shadows: these reflect both the teller and the reader, as much as they show the characters of the myth. We have made space in our storytelling to rediscover women who have been lost or forgotten. They are not villains, victims, wives and monsters: they are people.”
Profile Image for Austra.
613 reviews72 followers
July 4, 2022
Šis bija vnk perfekti! Reāli nobindžoju pa vienu vīkendu. Pirms dažām dienām pabeidzu klausīties Natalie Haynes podkāstu (Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, varat atrast Spotify), kur saturs ir līdzīgs, bet vairāk ar viņas stand-up gājieniem un publikas smīdināšanu. Grāmatā savukārt ir vairāk detaļu, garāk un nopietnāk (bet tikai par mītiskajām sievietēm, savukārt podkāstā ir arī par citiem personāžiem - vēsturniekiem u.c.). Protams, patikšana uz šo grāmatu varētu būt atkarīga arī no tā, cik labi lasītājs pārzina sengrieķu mītus. Tā kā manas atmiņas kopš augstskolas laikiem jau bija krietni pabalējušas, man bija daudz jaunas vai labi piemirstas informācijas, turklāt autore zina drēbi un ir izlobījusi šo mītisko sieviešu būtību gan no dažādām mītu interpretācijām, gan daiļdarbiem, kur konkrētajām varonēm ļauts bilst vien četras teksta rindas, caur mītisku sieviešu attēlojumu parādot reālās tā laika sievietes. Ļoti, ļoti izbaudīju un ļoti, ļoti rekomendēju. Un, iespējams, par spīti tam, ka nevajag bindžot vienu autoru pēc kārtas, es droši vien pavisam drīz jau ķeršos klāt pie A Thousand Ships
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