Mythology (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch


Edith Hamilton, 1942
496 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
August 2008

Even when I was a kid (couple of years ago), Hamilton and her book were so beloved that everyone referred to it as "Edith Hamilton's Mythology."

So. What's not to love about mythology? Deities and mortals loving and torment-ing one another; heroes and heroines, gods and goddesses surpassing the limits of human strentgh and beauty but caught in the trap of human passion.

It's all loyalty and treachery, bravery and cowardness playing out over and over and over—it's the stuff of life!

I've loved Edith Hamilton ever since I came across her as a young reader—and I'm hardly alone. For more than 65 years, this book has been treasured by students and teachers of mythology—it's a classic in its own right.

In plain, unadorned prose, Hamilton lays out the Greek myths in all their shimmering mysteriousness. She introduces us to the gods, the creation of the world, the earliest heroes, tales of love (or lust), and tales of daring.

Why bother with mythology? First of all, it's fun! But, second, its themes and narratives echo throughout literature, even down to very recent works like Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and Philip Roth's The Human Stain. Understanding their mythical underpinnings deepens our enjoyment of those novels.

As a book club, you might try something different: have members each read a different section of Hamilton...then report back to the group. Or everyone read the entire work...with each member choosing a favorite myth for discussion, one with personal resonance.

However you decide to handle this book, do read "The Trojan War" and "The Fall of Troy" (Part 4, Chapters I and II). Also, read "The House of Atreus" (Part 5, Chapter I). But don't stop there!


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