Gods Galore by Rupert Stanbury
Funny, insightful and enjoyable, this entertaining look at the progress of the Greek gods and goddesses in the twenty-first century is a glorious read. All the favourites are there; Zeus, being top god, Hades, still in charge of the Underworld, and Poseidon in his watery kingdom. Not that they are having a good time of it – Zeus is preoccupied by the outrageous behaviour of some of his sons and bewildered by some of his daughters, while his wife Hera is not so keen on his extra marital affairs. Hades has perhaps fallen into letting things slide, when a system has been working for thousands of years, why change it. Poseidon is definitely letting things slide, with his wife never visiting and his urge to oversee the seas of the world disappeared, he has simply given up trying. Fortunately for the gods there are still humans appearing in their realms who have a different way of looking at things. Nobbly Butt may be a human builder, but he has certain resources and attractions, while Vesta’s story could be a sad one – if it wasn’t for her ability to question the status quo, and befriend an endearing and unique dog. Totty is only there because of an unfortunate mistake, but with the help of the “Pocket Rocket” she is soon making a huge difference.
Inventive and imaginative, this is a book written with with humour and skill as puns, sly references to modern life and well developed ideas run throughout this novel. The characters are well drawn and confident, and surprisingly endearing in the circumstances of unexpected aggression (Mars), financial acumen (Hebe) and the wonderful set of mermaids who show more than a passing interest in Totty’s progress. There are so many ideas fizzling throughout this book, as Lennie the eagle tries to further his causes with the sort of support of a hungry tortoise, and the debate about equality rages through the highest councils and among various goddesses. It is a clever book, working from a myriad of sources to remind the reader of the basics of the legends without interrupting the flow of the narrative with long references and explanations. I remembered some of the stories with a gentle reminder – that Bacchus was the god of drinking – so naturally he is publican and supplier of alcoholic beverages to the gods, ably overseen by Mistress Nell Quickly who carries her Shakespean personality on with aplomb. There is an exhaustive list of the Principal Characters in the first pages of the book, which can be handy for reference, but certainly does not need to be committed to memory before embarking on the novel. One of the joys of this book is discovering the connections and links, and the often cheeky ideas that are carried through.
I particularly liked the character of Hebe as she deals with her problematic sibling Mars and aids and abets Totty to change the set up in the marine world. Vesta asks some very interesting questions and skillfully gets things done. Of course, Cerberus’ quest for Mars bars and friends is hugely entertaining, especially in his encounter with the banana fish.
Altogether this is a very enjoyable book which I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review. It is a cheerful and positive account of the goddesses and gods of Greek stories, cleverly overlaid with more twenty-first century preoccupations. It would be enjoyable for anyone who knows and appreciates these stories, those who enjoy references to other stories and situations, and those searching for a genuinely funny book.