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Summary

The Greek myths are among the world's most important cultural building blocks, and they have been retold many times, but rarely do they focus on the remarkable women at the heart of these ancient stories.

Stories of gods and monsters are the mainstay of epic poetry and Greek tragedy, from Homer to Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, from the Trojan War to Jason and the Argonauts. And still, today, a wealth of novels, plays and films draw their inspiration from stories first told almost 3,000 years ago. But modern tellers of Greek myth have usually been men and have routinely shown little interest in telling women’s stories. And when they do, those women are often painted as monstrous, vengeful or just plain evil. But Pandora - the first woman, who according to legend unloosed chaos upon the world - was not a villain, and even Medea and Phaedra have more nuanced stories than generations of retellings might indicate. 

Now, in Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes - broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist - redresses this imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar (the box came later) as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus or Agamemnon, Paris or Odysseus, Oedipus or Jason, the voices that sing in this audiobook are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Natalie Haynes (P)2020 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

Critic reviews

"Funny, sharp explications of what these sometimes not-very-nice women were up to, and how they sometimes made idiots of...but read on!" (Margaret Atwood)

"Natalie Haynes is the nation's muse." (Adam Rutherford)

What listeners say about Pandora's Jar

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Superb

I adored this. As a fan of A Thousand Ships and Stands Up For the Classics this encapsulates what makes both of them great. Told with heart, Haynes’ passion and enthusiasm are tangible and its infectious. Heartbreaking at points and funny at others. Can’t stop recommending it to people.

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Lifting the lid on female characters

Myth-busting by going back to the original myth texts, examining and comparing them, bringing in other sources such as ancient vase paintings - it feels like fresh light on these characters, delving into who they really were, their motivations, the contexts they were dealing with and the cultures of their time. Accessible and thorough. I appreciate the author Natalie Haynes reading the work herself, too; this works well for her style and the points she is conveying.

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Incredibly interesting and thought provoking

An absolutely fantastic, refreshing review of women presented in Greek myth, with underlying themes that remain relevant to this day.

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Brilliant, feminist myths!

The author was excellent at writing and narrating, and I loved every minute of this book. By centring women in myths, Haynes ensures the whole story is told. My only complaint is that it wasn't long enough for me! 😊

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So much to learn

This is an epic book in more ways than one. It’s richness in adding back the story’s of women is a must for anyone who has enjoyed geek mythology. The author is highly gifted, as so many of the characters.

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Informative and entertaining

Natalie gives us a very interesting and informative look at the role of women in Greek myth. There are ten chapters, each focussing on a female character. They are: Pandora, Jocasta, Helen, Medusa, the Amazons, Clytemnestra, Eurydice, Phaedra, Medea, Penelope. In addition to retelling the stories, Natalie compares the different versions from ancient times to the present day, what we know and what has unfortunately been lost over time. With each chapter there is a comparison with the way the stories have been treated in other art forms such as painting and opera. While listening I was often googling Pre Raphaelite paintings, etc. In this way we start to get a picture of what the stories have meant to people over the centuries.

It’s extraordinary how the way that women were portrayed has changed due to the varying position that women have held in society and, in the twentieth century retelling in particular, have been edited and censored. The accepted version of the stories that most of us grew up with is frequently very different to the originals. Some of these female characters have had a bad press, to put it mildly, while others have been used to discredit real women generally.

Natalie reads perfectly with an infectious enthusiasm. She is along with us on the ride, sharing our sense of adventure, mystery, magic and at times horror, but most of all the wonder of these timeless tales and their symbolism. She also has a nice line of humour that probably works better in audio than the printed page. Well researched, scholarly and entertaining throughout. Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

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Enjoyed every minute of this

Just what the title says :) Not one sentence was disengaging, dull, uninformative, or jarring. Well-nigh a perfect book. And very funny!

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Excellent

A fantastic new look at the women of Greek antiquity. Well written and read. I would recommend.

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superb. loved it

loved every minute of this book. well written and researched. beautifully read.will read more by the author. perfect.

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Book of the year

Having read the Greek myths time and time again when growing up, this book and narration by the incredible Natalie Haynes busts the myths! Deep, thoughtful, funny-dry, with the authors ability to capture and keep your attention, this book/audio book is a literary delight. A must read or listen for every woman especially.