Gods Behaving Badly – Controversial?

One of my two book groups has chosen to read Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips which has caused a bit of controversy. One lady said she didn’t like it at all, whereas one said she was keen to get home to finish it quickly, she was enjoying it so much. And that’s before the meeting to discuss it!

Gods Behaving Badly

I first encountered this book when I bought the hardback for Daughter in a fit of generosity a few years ago. She really enjoyed it. I had a quick look at the time but didn’t get round to reading it.

I think that this a curious little book. It is very funny in some ways, with some slight digs at modern society, religion and life in general. It is also a book about death and one version of what the afterlife is like, so not a book I would have chosen. It is a bit anti Christian of necessity, but gently and thoughtfully so, as Christian faith is not really possible in a world powered by the Greek gods.

The book depicts a modern world, full of mobile phones, the London Underground, dodgy tv programmes and the general  reality of everyday life. In  large house in London live a family that have seen much better times, the original, powerful Greek gods. Apollo, indeed, keeps the sun going, between his other interests. It is probably the detail of Apollo’s sexual obsessions that caused some of the controversy. Not much is left to the imagination at some parts of the book, but it is real love that forms the central drive of the action. Alice and Neil are shy of declaring their real feelings for each other until events force some literally earth shattering decisions. You do not need a classics degree to follow this novel, but some of the jokes and comments work better if you know, for example, why pomegranates are important to Persephone. In many ways this is a light book, quick and easy to read with interesting characters and an easily understood story. It is also a book which I think is trying to say something about modern life and faith. I particularly liked Eros’ attempts to become a Christian with his interest in the life of a local church. This is a problem when you are a minor deity and your close relatives cause all nature to work. It is a very readable book, easily manageable in a short time even if all around you are demanding attention.  I liked it, and looked for more by this author but cannot find any other novels listed. Maybe this is such a one off it would be difficult to follow. I think the nearest author would be  Douglas Adams, but his books do not try to place mythical characters in such a real life setting. It is a surreal book, with some sad characters and events, and sometimes it felt as if it had been written in a hurry. It is a little basic, and it is a shame if some of its content put some people off a good novel. Copies seem to be available, so why not see what you think.

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