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Book Review: "Herc" by Phoenicia Rogerson

5/5 - a vivid and unique retelling of the Hercules myth...

By Annie KapurPublished about a month ago 3 min read
From: Amazon

I have to say that when it comes to retellings of Ancient Mythologies, I am all for it whatever it is. Jennifer Saint and Costanza Casati both come to mind when we think of these more feminist retellings of myths where characters were previously sidelined for their gender. The books cast a whole new look on these characters who may have been misunderstood. I think that is what I tend to enjoy when it comes to retellings of myths, it is not about knowing the academia of the story inside out, but it is about being able to shed light on a story that is so old that you can still today, offer new interpretations of it. This is quite a new phenomenon from the Mary Renault days and I am here for all of it.

Herc is a new take on the Hercules myth and it is not simply a feminist retelling as it is a modern retelling and critique of characters that were not just sidelined in the original, but some were only briefly mentioned if that. We get the story of Hercules' mother and father and how they were hoping for a girl because their families are filled with male heroes going off and dying. When the mother gives birth to two sons though and one is clearly of physical strength, there are questions that are being asked. Named for the 'glory of Hera' - Heracles grows to become stronger and stronger. But his mannerisms don't grow the same way.

From: Amazon

I loved the way this book was written because you do not really get so much from Hercules himself, instead he is written into the stories of other people. People like Amphitryon (the step-father of Hercules), Alcmene (the mother of Hercules), Iphicles (the brother of Hercules), Laonome (the sister of Hercules), Hylas (the Patroclus to Hercules's Achilles) and the doomed Megara (the wife of Hercules). There are many more but these are just some of them.

One of the parts I liked quite a lot was when Hercules beats his lyre teacher to death and he happens to be the brother of Orpheus. The final letter from Orpheus tells his brother to become friends with Eurydice in the underworld because it would make him happy. If this part doesn't make you slightly upset then I am convinced you don't have a heart. This part is told in a sort of epistolary structure with letters back and forth from Orpheus to his brother and back again. This is a style that gets repeated in the book in letters from Hylas to Hercules and back again. The interpretation of emotions is far better than simply being told a story, it was a great achievement of structure in the book.

From: Amazon

Another part I liked was Megara's narrative because it reads like she is talking to Hercules. This again, is different to other sections which feel like you're reading a diary. This is like you're reading someone's mind and all the things they are not saying to the person they married. You find out how the marriage played out from this and obviously, the duty of Megara that she feels towards her husband. This is one of my favourite parts in the whole book because it is so movingly emotional and you can really feel Megara's sadness through the pages, no matter how dutious she feels. It is still impassioned and sorrowful.

When we come on to the labours and we get some narratives from Hercules' nephew, Iolas, your view of Hercules changes as you see him as older than the first few chapters. This also happens when we get on to the chapter about Jason when he speaks of the competition and Atalanta. As the labours are completed and the wars are raged, we get Hippolyta, Theseus and many others showing their perspectives on this man who basically did the impossible. It may be witty and funny from time to time, but I don't think I have ever felt like I have known the story of Hercules in so much detail as I do from this book.

From: Amazon

As we get into the book, it becomes darker and darker and the ending is not even a real end, but a whole new beginning to another chapter of Ancient Greece. This book is a great achievement of Ancient Greek Mythology retellings due to its uniqueness of story, structure and perspective. The writer truly has given us a lot to think about. All in all, it captures some of the most incredible, romantic, violent, active and thoughtful parts of the story of one of the most well-known heroes in all of mythological history.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

Secondary English Teacher & Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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Comments (3)

  • Ikram YF.about a month ago

    I loved it! Is there anyway I can text u? I have some questions, if you don't mind. I am and english literature graduate.

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Fantastic critique!!! Loved it!!!❤️❤️💕

  • angela hepworthabout a month ago

    I love the story of Hercules! Might have to check this out.

Annie KapurWritten by Annie Kapur

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