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Medea by Rosie Hewlett - Book Review

Medea by Rosie Hewlett is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Medea, princess of Colchis. Hewlett tells the story from Medea’s point of view, and we are privy to the experiences that shaped her from an early age. As a child, Medea is bullied by her brother and abused by her father, King Aeetes. Her gift for magic becomes apparent at an early age, but rather than being appreciated for her abilities, Medea’s magic makes her the target of suspicion and hate.


When Medea meets the charismatic Jason, she sees a way out of her miserable existence at home. She persuades Jason to take her with him when he leaves Colchis, in exchange for helping him steal the coveted golden fleece from her father. The two begin a passionate, albeit unequal relationship. Medea’s love for Jason is obsessive, and there is nothing she wouldn’t do for him; however, Jason’s love for Medea is rooted in self-interest.


Medea does everything in her power to help Jason achieve his dream of becoming a king, including betraying her own family. Medea saves Jason’s life several times, and often puts herself at risk to further his career and Jason repays her with the ultimate rejection. Enraged by his callous behaviour, she summons all her powers to exact the most devastating revenge.


Rosie Hewlett’s retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Medea is absolutely mesmerising and I was beguiled by her lyrical storytelling. Reading the story from Medea’s point of view gives a captivating intimacy, and I felt I was right there with her through all her travails. Hewlett’s portrayal of all the characters is very nuanced, showing how each of them were shaped by the often-tragic events of their lives. I was even surprised to find myself at times empathising with narcissistic Jason, for his thwarted ambition and traumatic childhood.


I read Euripides version of Medea earlier this year, and it was refreshing to see the story told in more modern, relatable terms. The human story at the heart of this novel is what resonates with me, with Medea’s experience of betrayal by those closest to her being an all too common one.


Hewlett’s novel is the story of a woman driven to madness after a lifetime of being maligned by her community and abused by those closest to her. Condemned to life as an exile by the man she believed was her soul mate, Medea’s torment culminates in an unspeakable act that will shock the world for eons to come. Medea by Rosie Hewlett is a spellbinding, tragic, and unforgettable story, brilliantly told.


***I listened to the Audible version while reading and cannot imagine a better narrator than Kristin Atherton.***

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