Saturday, June 7, 2014

Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips

I like quirky books.  I read so much, that sometimes the plain old plot lines and story telling methods are just humdrum and predictable; a quirky book, that will come at the reader with a unique point of view, or characters, or plot, is one of my favourite things to discover.  And boy, did I ever find that it my latest read, Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips.  

Gods Behaving Badly tells two connected stories, both set in modern London.  The first is the story of Alice and Neil; Alice is a cleaner and Neil is an engineer.  They love each other, but are so shy and nervous around each other that they’ve had a two year, chaste, friendship.  The second story is about an odd family, living a life of declining fortunes; this is because they are the gods of the ancient Greek pantheon.  Of course, they might be living is squalor at this point, but they still enjoy meddling with the lives of mere mortals, and this is where Neil and Alice come in.  Miffed with Apollo, Aphrodite gets her son Eros to make Apollo fall madly in love with Alice.  When Alice rebuffs him, things don’t go well (and the last time it happened, he turned the chick into a tree).  The rest of the story is a delightful updating of a hero saga, with the modern twist of ‘who the fuck would believe that the ancient Greek gods are living in London?’.

Of course, a quirky plot isn’t enough to keep me happy.  The characters have to be engaging too, and they certainly are.  Phillips is able to write the human and relatable characters of Neil and Alice, who are retiring and afraid of their own shadows, as well as a pantheon of gods, such as Artemis, Hermes and Hera.  Each of the gods have all the characteristics you would expect, but Phillips has also humanized them; Artemis is a dog walker who is constantly hoping to find a spark of wildness in her charges, Hermes is constantly on the go as the god of money and enjoys wearing pin-stripped suites, and Hera is still a vengeful bitch.

Phillips’ writing style is refreshingly tongue-in-cheek; she knows this is a quirky plot and a quirky cast of characters, and she doesn’t appear to take herself too seriously as a result.  The writing style is quick-moving and easy to follow, and turns into a plot with a bunch of twists that are really enjoyable.  Phillips has melded the modern world with the ancient in a completely believable and interesting way.  Hats off to Phillips for creating such a wonderfully unique story-scape.

So, final verdict?  Definitely read this book.  It’s quirky, hilarious, well-written, and unique.  In a world that sees oodles and oodles of books published weekly, Gods Behaving Badly is one that stands out.  Phillips has another book coming out this summer (about King Arthur’s court) that I can’t wait to read; I’m definitely adding Phillips to the list of authors I keep an eye on, and whose books I snap up as soon as they’re published.

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