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A Debut Novel for Lovers of (or Newbies to) the Greek Classics
Natalie Haynes’s debut novel is a fascinating mix of Haynes’s diverse interests and talents. A stand-up comedian, television panelist, journalist, and author of a nonfiction book on the Greek classics, Haynes brings all these sources to bear in creating a complex and satisfying narrative. As our reviewer notes, the novel is structured, as a traditional Greek play, into five acts, and offers both perspectives on the teaching of Greek classics: that of the teacher, and that of the student. I haven’t had a chance to read The Furies yet (published in Haynes’s native Britain as Amber Fury), but this review has definitely piqued my interest.
HAYNES, Natalie. The Furies. 304p. St. Martin’s Press. Aug. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250048004. LC 2014016596.
Drawing upon the subject matter from her first nonfiction book, The Ancient Guide to Modern Life (Overlook, 2011), Haynes creates a page-turning portrait of grief set in the modern day. After experiencing a personal trauma when her fiancé is murdered, Alex drastically alters her life by leaving her job as a play director in London and moving to Edinburgh to teach troubled teens drama therapy. Using the Greek classics as course material, the group discusses themes of violence, revenge, and retribution, all issues that parallel the teens’ real lives. An enigmatic element is added to the narrative when diary entries and letters from one of Alex’s students are interspersed with her account, and readers get a dual perspective of what is being taught and what is actually absorbed by the student. Organized into five acts, the flashback structure adds mystery and intrigue to the story, though the tragic ending comes as no surprise. While the five students in Alex’s class often make rash, unwise decisions, teens will relate to the social predicaments they must navigate. This will be especially popular with teens that have difficulty regulating their emotions. As a good introduction for students unfamiliar with the Greek classics, teachers will also appreciate the curriculum connection.—Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ
Filed under: Contemporary Fiction
About Mark Flowers
Mark Flowers is the Young Adult Librarian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Vallejo, CA. He reviews for a variety of library journals and blogs and recently contributed a chapter to The Complete Summer Reading Program Manual: From Planning to Evaluation (YALSA, 2012). Contact him via Twitter @droogmark
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