The Greek gods and goddesses have left Olympus and moved to modern-day London, residing in a tumbledown house and are thoroughly sick of one another. To make matters worse, their power is waning. Apollo, bored and self-centered as always, has been up to his old tricks turning mortal women who refuse him into trees. This flagrant waste of power is a no-no and in a bid to teach him a lesson, his aunt Aphrodite convinces her son Eros to shoot Apollo with an arrow of love during his first stint as a television psychic. When Artemis hires Alice (the recipient of Apollo’s love) as the gods’ cleaning lady, all out chaos ensues and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Marie Phillips’ first novel has an intriguing premise – what if the Greek gods lived among us, performing their tasks but still needing to make a living? Her answer, Gods Behaving Badly, shows promise but falls a bit flat in the execution. There is much humour and irony to be found here: Aphrodite’s ring-tone is ‘Venus’ and she spends her days as a phone-sex operator; Artemis is a dog-walker repeatedly stumbling across her brother Apollo’s indiscretions as new trees appear in the park; Zeus is a crazy old man whom Hera hides in the attic; Apollo’s lack of attention to his job has led to global warming; and the entrance to Hades is a London tube station.
Her counterpoint to the gods – Alice and Neil – fall flat amidst the hyperbole that infuses the gods’ characters. Alice, the quiet cleaner, floats through much of the novel without touching readers. Providing Alice with more presence would have added credence to Neil’s quest to save her and ensured reader’s empathy lay with the mortals. It is only in the later part of Gods Behaving Badly that Alice really comes to life and at that point readers may no longer care what happens to her.
Ben Stiller’s production company ‘Red Hour’ has optioned Gods Behaving Badly to produce a TV comedy series.
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: December 10, 2007
Author Interview: YouTube
Author Website: www.mariephillips.co.uk
tags: books book reviews Marie Phillips Greek gods fiction