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TheBecks

TheBecks

Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus - Victoria Grossack;Alice Underwood I admit to being mostly unfamiliar with the Oedipus myth before I read this book. My knowledge was pretty much limited to "man kills father then marries his mother". I didn't know any of the details or nuances to the story. So I can't really say whether this is an accurate retelling or portrayal of the myth. I can only really discuss this story on its own, and in that light, it was good.

I had three major issues with this book (and incest wasn't one of them).

First, I didn't much care about Jocasta as a teen in the beginning of the book. I didn't dislike her, I just didn't care about her at all, which is in my opinion worse than dislike. She lived in ancient Greece, in a time where arranged marriages were common and expected, and yet her attitudes seemed out of place and far too modern. She rebels against a switch in her marriage plans after the first one becomes impossible, on the grounds that she's never even met the man she's now supposed to marry. So? Throughout history, women and girls have been married off to men (usually much older men) that they'd never met.

In a society where almost everything is at the will of the gods, and prophecy holds sway over all, why should one girl feel like she's being mistreated by her father handing her off to a different man to become her husband? Why should she expect anything else? This just seems like a more modern mindset than I would expect from a girl who lived then, as if she was expecting a marriage for love and respect instead of one arranged for power, alliances, or "the will of the gods".

Also, there was insta-love. Not a fan the insta-love. Probably this was due to the prophecy, which stated that she would love her husband and bear him lots of little Thebans, but it just felt like modern teen behavior to fall in love with the first attractive, powerful man to show her some attention.

Finally, the terms "my lady", "my lady queen", "my lord", and "my lord king" used throughout the book felt out of place to me. In a conversation with Victoria Grossack where I brought this up, she said, "[Regarding] Lord/Lady – Bronze Age Greece definitely had both nobles and kings/queens. We decided on these terms as the most accessible, giving the correct flavor without having readers stumble over unfamiliar terms such as wanix and spartoi."

While I can understand this decision, for me, it didn't work. Every time I would see "my lady queen" or the like, I would feel as if I was in England rather than Ancient Greece. Rather than helping immerse me in the world, they kick me right out of it. I'd personally rather "wanix" and "spartoi" be used if those were appropriate. As long as I'm given an explanation for an unfamiliar word, either outright or by context, then I'll acclimate to their use.

But those complaints aside, I did eventually begin to gel with the writing, and once Jocasta was out of her teens, I definitely began to like her more. There was a lot of political maneuvering and religious practices that give us an idea of what living back then might have been like. I liked how things were hinted at, and left interpretable.

I liked also how the more fantastic elements of the story, the prophecies and the Sphinx, were brought into the realm of the real world, and it was shown how these things could have really happened.

Overall, this was a good book. I would have liked a little more information pertaining to what happened after, but I thought that the ending was appropriate.

Two things to remember:
1) Never ask the Tiresias to dinner.
2) Thebes is fickle.