Classicist and chief culture writer for The Guardian Higgins offers a set of Greek myths that focus on female characters and their relationship to weaving—the "women's work" that gave these often overlooked characters agency and narrative power.
Charlotte Higgins has embraced a central metaphor—weaving—that leads us through the labyrinth of interconnected stories in a startlingly fresh way. It throws radiant new light on their meanings. Although her chief model is Ovid’s phantasmagoric mythological compendium in his Metamorphoses, her voice is quite different—more tender and pensive—and she uses her considerable scholarly skills to mine many other ancient sources, rescuing some little-known stories from obscurity ... The importance of visualisation to the enjoyment of this book, a beautiful artefact in itself, is subtly indicated by prompts to the mind’s eye in the form of Chris Ofili’s exquisite line drawings on the dustjacket and at the opening of each chapter, and by the colour scheme ... The book would make a perfect introduction to the entrancing world of Greek myth for any secondary school student. Its thoughtful introduction, ample notes pointing to the ancient sources, bibliography of accessible further reading, maps, genealogies and glossary make it a useful resource for far more advanced adult readers. And Higgins’s simple yet sonorous style contains treats even for those lucky enough, like her, to have read her ancient sources in the original languages.
... erudite and exhilerating ... Gusseted with a map, family trees, notes and glossaries, this feminist corrective oddly recalls the kind of old-fashioned mythological compendia that Higgins grew up with ... Higgins’s own volume is illustrated by the Turner prize-winning Chris Ofili, whose drawings are charming and airy, suggestive in spirit of Matisse’s pencil sketches. While they undoubtedly beautify an already alluring object, the deeper Higgins leads the reader into her forest of tales, the less necessary they feel.
Charlotte Higgins demonstrates again why the Greek variety have never lessened their grip on the western imagination ... We are in the hands of a fine, fluent storyteller (‘Are you ready? Then follow me’), who is properly attuned to what characters look like ... Throughout, Higgins deploys direct speech and rhetorical devices such as alliteration and repetition with a light touch ... The use of the vernacular is judicious and entertaining ... Source material does not slow the narrative energy ... Higgins, like the bards who first unspooled these tales, creates the illusion of spontaneity (‘And now what?’) and handles suspense brilliantly ... I loved this book.