The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes (Mantle) ISBN: 978-1-5098-3616-1
Natalie Haynes’ take on the tales of Oedipus and Antigone will thrill those interested in Greek classics. Elements of Greek tragedy interwoven with her effort to tell these stories from a female perspective make this a unique novel.
The alternating voices of Jocasta and her daughter, Ismene reveal a less than romantic royal life. They reveal a child bride and her much older homosexual king-husband, webs of deception, and incest. Vivid descriptions of architecture, culture and life in the Theban court add texture to the setting.
Countless rhetorical questions and tedious chapters with little progress slowed down my reading. Isy’s voice as a child remains unconvincing and stylised. The one fully developed character is that of Sophon, the doctor/ tutor playing a meaningful role in both women’s lives. The apt description of the plague as a malignant bird unfolding its wings over the ancient world is a highlight.