Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023
"Haynes is master of her trade . . . She succeeds in breathing warm life into some of our oldest stories.”—Telegraph (UK)
The national bestselling author of A Thousand Ships and Pandora's Jar returns with a fresh and stunningly perceptive take on the story of Medusa, the original monstered woman.
They will fear you and flee you and call you a monster.
The only mortal in a family of gods, Medusa is the youngest of the Gorgon sisters. Unlike her siblings, Medusa grows older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.
When the sea god Poseidon assaults Medusa in Athene’s temple, the goddess is enraged. Furious by the violation of her sacred space, Athene takes revenge—on the young woman. Punished for Poseidon’s actions, Medusa is forever transformed. Writhing snakes replace her hair and her gaze will turn any living creature to stone. Cursed with the power to destroy all she loves with one look, Medusa condemns herself to a life of solitude.
Until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon . . .
In Stone Blind, classicist and comedian Natalie Haynes turns our understanding of this legendary myth on its head, bringing empathy and nuance to one of the earliest stories in which a woman—injured by a powerful man—is blamed, punished, and monstered for the assault. Delving into the origins of this mythic tale, Haynes revitalizes and reconstructs Medusa’s story with her passion and fierce wit, offering a timely retelling of this classic myth that speaks to us today.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Natalie Haynes flips the script on gods and monsters in her bold reboot of a famous Greek myth. Medusa begins life as the cherished, mortal baby sister of the immortal and monstrous Gorgons. It’s only after she’s sexually assaulted by one god and cursed by another that she becomes doomed to turn anyone who meets her eyes into stone. Haynes tackles this retelling with the knowledge of a classicist and the chops of a comedian, tempering the heavy tone of the story with plenty of sharp wit. In Stone Blind, the gods behave like violent, spoiled children and a monstrous villain becomes a tragic heroine.
Haynes (A Thousand Ships) reframes the story of Medusa from Greek mythology as one of victim-shaming in this sharp retelling. Haynes recasts Medusa, the only mortal from a family of gods, not as a monster but as survivor of rape by Poseidon, whose wife, Athena, then punishes her for it. As Medusa deals with her new life with a head of snakes and a gaze that turns people to stone, Haynes interjects by addressing the reader with a question: "I'm wondering if you still think of her as a monster.... I suppose it depends on what you think that word means." Haynes's inventive reappraisal extends to her narrative devices, including rueful passages from the perspective of Medusa's severed head ("I have a much lower opinion of mortal men than did, for reasons which I would assume were obvious"), and she invites the reader into Medusa's point of view with rich sensory details: "She could hear the cormorants arguing with the gulls and she knew exactly which rocks they had perched on before picking their quarrel." Even before the plot builds toward Perseus's pursuit of Medusa, Hayes conveys an urgency to Medusa's life as a mortal woman among vengeful gods. Fans of feminist retellings will love this.
Love the writing style, easy to read and interesting