Girl Meets Boy – modern myths

The first entry in my winter booklist reviews! My list for the next three months is very ambitious and we’ll see how much I get accomplished. In the meantime, here’s a bit about the first book I read on my list!

9781841958699

Ali Smith’s latest novel – Girl Meets Boy is bound to be controversial by the nature of the author and of the original myth itself. The book  is a part of the Canongate Myth Series and takes on the task of modernizing old myths. This lately has been vastly popular the last several years, as can be seen from the variations on Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and other such fairy-tales making appearances in film and television series. Smith takes on the slightly different challenge of remixing (her word) the myth of Iphis found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses a a bit of a further throwback than Snow White! Iphis in Ovid’s work is the story of a girl brought up as a boy by her mother to save her from death as an infant who, as an adult, falls in love with a girl and despairs she will never make her beloved happy during their marriage. Iphis pleads with the gods and is transformed into the form she desires – ultimately a happy ending and an ancient examination of love from a social and biological point of view.  For me reading Girl Meets Boy reminds me of my days in university plugging through ancient Greek mythology. However unlike some of the ancient Greek writing I fell asleep to, Smith keeps the story moving and fresh. In fact she is able to keep the integrity of the original story while modernizing it to reflect themes of equality with humour and literary references mixed in for good measure. Particularly well done was the the use of inner-monologue to express modern concerns with gender and sexuality – especially relevant to our family. When Midge to express her discomfort with her sister’s sexual identity and new relationship, Smith aptly demonstrates that even those who think of themselves as progressive can be uncomfortable when its a little too close to home. Unlike the original myth, Smith’s characters do not conform to social restrictions for their relationship and instead challenge convention – a situation that in Ovid’s works would likely have led to an unhappy ending for the lovers. Luckily the sisters reconcile, the love story ends happily, and while the story carries some serious undertones and themes, it also manages a lightness and charm that make it an easy read.

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