What I read: Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Stone Blind
Natalie HaynesAbout this book

(blurb from Pan MacMillan SA)

So to mortal men, we are monsters. Because of our flight, our strength. They fear us, so they call us monsters.’

Medusa is the sole mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her Gorgon sisters, she begins to realize that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt. And her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.

When the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. The power cannot be controlled: Medusa can look at nothing without destroying it. She is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness.

Until Perseus embarks upon a quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon . . .

Stone Blind
Natalie HaynesMy thoughts

As told by Medusa herself, but also an entire case of narrators (including animals and plants), giving this retelling the full bigger picture treatment.  It is interesting to see how each narrator adds to the backstory, and also setting the scene for the well-known events to unfold.  The character list provided at the beginning of the book came in very handy.

Medusa is born into a world of gods and immortals – as a mortal.  Which is quite interesting, especially if you consider that her sisters are immortals as well?  She must make a living in a world filled with petty and spiteful Gods.  She is raised by her two Gorgon sisters, from the time that she is delivered to them, as a baby.

Stone Blind
Natalie HaynesRaising this mortal and fragile being, by two mothers, presents the picture of a normal and healthy family, and I loved these beautifully wholesome chapters in the book.  I loved their bond, this whole family picture, so different from the “normal” idea that you would have from this type of scenario. Seeing this interesting family unit navigate the care and attention to raise their youngest sibling from birth, through her teenage years, to young adult was so entertaining.

“I’m wondering if you still think of her as a monster. I suppose it depends on what you think that word means. Monsters are, what? Ugly? Terrifying? Gorgons are both these things, certainly, although Medusa wasn’t always. Can a monster be beautiful if it is still terrifying? Perhaps it depends on how you experience fear and judge beauty.”

This also provides the insight and realisation that Medusa isn’t this furious, murderous monster from the mythology we think we know, but is quite emotional and lonesome, and very humane.  She is at her happiest when she can spend time outside, in nature.

Her beauty is taken away when she is cursed by the vengeful and jealous Athena, wife of Poseidon, punishing her for an incident that wasn’t her doing at all, and was actually quite traumatic and distributing.

“But they don’t know who you are. Men call you monsters because they don’t understand you.”

Stone Blind
Natalie HaynesPerseus, who’s story is usually told as a Greek “hero” is presented very differently in “Stone Blind”.  He is extremely unlikeable, a coward, and despite having help from numerous gods, comes across as a fumbling idiot.  During some of his interactions with Hermes and Athene, I literally laughed out loud.  Smart and witty!

This is very much a feminist retelling, which I throughly enjoyed.  It tells a sad and distributing story, filled with grief, misogyny and trauma.  I do believe that Natalie Haynes, the author, succeeded in what the premise of the book was, to make Medusa more humane.

“Why would anyone love a monster?’ asked Perseus.  ‘Who are you to decide who is worthy of love?’ said Hermes.  ‘I mean, I wasn’t…’  ‘And who are you to decide who is a monster?’ added the messenger god.”

“Stone Blind” is adventurous, emotional, and dark.  It is filled with flawed characters, and the short chapters added loads of tension and different perspectives throughout the book.   It is a tragic tale, that makes you question who the real monsters are.  It is well-researched and beautifully written, insightful, and complex.

With thanks to Pan MacMillan SA for the opportunity to read this book.

RRR (Roelia Reads Rating) 7/10

The Details

Publication Date:  15 September 2022

ISBN:  9781529061499

384 pages


About the author