Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

The title alone is an indication of the chaos and insanity that results when you take Greece's Olympian pantheon and force them to co-habitate in a London flat. And, in the tradition of all the poor mortals who have gone before them, in stumbles shy, sweet-tempered Alice and her would-be boyfriend, Neil. As the heroine, Alice is poised to save the world, but forget swords and magic wands; Alice's arsenal consists of a mop, a dust-rag, and her ability to obey a few simple rules: only speak when spoken to, be on time, and whatever you do, stay away from Apollo, since he has a penchant for mortal women.

Phillips' book features most of the well-known Greek pantheon: Artemis as a professional dog-walker, lamenting over the days when women cherished their chastity; Apollo, a young and lusty television psychic; Aphrodite who spends her time as a phone sex operator, and Eros, who covets the Christian way and keeps asking questions about death. For classical scholars, only a few inconsistencies are noticeable - such as the poor woman who spurns Apollo and is forced to live out the rest of her short life as a tree. In mythology, Daphne turns herself into a tree (or has the help of another sympathetic deity). And Athena, portrayed as fiercely intelligent and aloof, somehow lacks her namesake wisdom in order to communicate effectively with the other gods.

But Phillips makes it work, and work well. Gods Behaving Badly is a fast-paced romantic comedy that is hard to put down. She focuses on the Olympian experience - not the grime-infested house, but on the thought of their death as mortals cease to worship them. Only an other-worldly intervention can stop their demise, and that is where Alice steps in.

Witty and poignant, Phillips brings the reader to understand the ancient Greeks who believed the gods walked among us. And just maybe, after reading this book, they still do.

Visit Marie Phillips' website here:

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