Review published on June 25, 2017.
This retelling of the tales of Oedipus and Antigone from the perspectives of Jocasta and Ismene is a fascinating endeavour. It follows Jocasta from before she married Laius until after her death, and intertwines with her daughter Ismene’s first-person telling of the tragic events of the story of Antigone a decade later. This should offer something for both those familiar with the classics (a new perspective on an old story) and also those with only the vaguest knowledge (specifically Oedipus’s relationship to Jocasta) of the stories. I found this to be a well-crafted novel that still managed to bring some elements of surprise into the tale of this tragic family.
Ismene is a minor character in Antigone, but she is a wonderful source of bravery and common sense in The Children of Jocasta. The device of her writing her own history because she knows that if she does not no-one else will and she will be forgotten is a clever one when you consider the number of woman in history forgotten because they were not the ones recording the history thanks to lack of education and lack of opportunity.
Following Jocasta through her unhappy marriage and the loss of her child makes you root for her and completely understand her falling for a young man who was everything her deceased husband was not. She is a hugely sympathetic character.
You can tell Natalie Haynes has a passion for ancient Greek literature. It suffuses her work, which makes it very readable. A truly great read.
Eleanor King 5/5
The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes
Mantle 9781509836154 hbk May 2017
SECOND OPINION: The Women of the Castle by Jessica Shattuck