by Emily Whitman
Opening line--"'Stay here, Persephone,' says my mother. 'I have some work to do.'"
This is one of those rare books which I didn't read any reviews of. I just saw it on the library shelf, was interested by the title, and picked it up. This is a risky move. This time, however, it paid off. I found it well-written and intriguing--the Persephone myth is one of those that lends itself to constant re-interpretation and I usually feel like those work well in novel form.
Here Persephone is, as advertised, the daughter of Demeter. Her mother has secluded them away in a paradise of beauty and and growing things where no men are allowed. Ever. But Persephone hungers for something more. She wants to win her mother's elusive approval, she wants to see the world around her, she wants to grow up. She wants to make her own choices. And so she does, with startling results.
There's a huge emphasis on choice here--mild spoiler here
--the fact that that Persephone chooses Hades rather than being abducted by him--end spoiler
. It skirts just around the edge of being heavy-handed and annoying, but never quite got there for me. Actually, my major complaint about the book is that in a few places the dialogue sounded extremely modern and it jolted me out of the story.
I tend to notice places in books--how the landscape is described and how characters interact with it. Here it's very well done--the contrast between Demeter's realm and Hades's which helps the reader understand why Persephone might love both. It's not the contrast you might expect. Hades's realm is not black and gloomy and lifeless, although it's certainly more somber than Demeter's somewhat unnatural rampant lushness.
All in all, a very enjoyable read. If you like re-tellings and/or the Persephone myth, I'd definitely check this one out.
Book source: public library
Book information: Greenwillow, 2009; 14 up
Originally published here