Gods Behaving Badly

Gods Behaving Badly
by Marie Phillips
Fiction. 292 pp.
Little, Brown. 2007.

flap copy:

Being immortal is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve Greek gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London town house—and are none too happy about it. Even more disturbing, their powers are waning.

For Artemis (goddess of hunting, professional dog walker), Aphrodite (goddess of beauty, telephone sex operator), and Apollo (god of the sun, TV psychic), there's no way out—until a meek cleaner, Alice, and her would-be boyfriend, Neil, turn their world literally upside down. When what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills, Alice and Neil are caught in the cross fire, and they must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed—but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?

Gods Behaving Badly is that rare thing: a charming, funny, utterly original first novel that satisfies the head and the heart.

For starters, had I known I could get the book with this cover instead of the other cover, I would have. But that's a given.

This book is clearly not for everyone (chapter two is Apollo and Aphrodite going at it—bored—in the bathroom). That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much. I'm trying to think of how to describe this book to give it justice. Basically, I found myself laughing. Often. I was so entertained by it. Your main character in this one is Artemis, which was pleasant to see since she's often ignored in mythological retellings for the other more boisterous gods, and she's rather disgruntled and unhappy. Of course, you cram the gods and their larger-than-life personalities into a London town home when they're dying because people no longer believe in them and that's bound to happen. Though, truth be told, Hermes is my favorite god in this book. Of course, that's likely due to him getting some rather choice scenes, such as when he goes to meet Alice to escort her to the entrance to the Underworld.
"Alice Joy Mulholland?"
Alice turned.
"Yes," said Hermes. "How did you know?" . . .

"I don't understand," said Alice. "What do you mean, how do I know? You know me. You said my name."
"That doesn't mean anything," said Hermes. "I know everybody's name."
"But you do know me," said Alice. "I clean your house."
Recognition bloomed.
"Of course," he said. "Sorry. Out of context." . . .

"You did hit your head," confirmed Hermes. "But that's not what killed you."
"What?" said Alice.
"It was a lightning strike," said Hermes.
"You mean," said Alice, "you mean I am dead."
Hermes cocked his head.
"Best to make sure," he said.
He reached inside her chest and pulled out her heart.
"Yup," he said. "Definitely not beating."
He put it back.
Alice screamed. She screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed. She screamed and screamed and screamed, and as she screamed she became aware that the screaming wasn't exhausting her or relieving her or even making her throat sore. The scream was having no effect on her whatsoever.
Eventually she stopped screaming.
"Are you done?" said Hermes, who had been standing still, watching her, all this time.
"Yes," said Alice.
"Good," said Hermes.
He took a pair of earplugs out of his ears. . . .

"If you're a god . . . does that mean that the others are too?"
"The others? You mean the rest of the family? Yes, of course. You're pretty slow on the uptake."
"So Apollo—he's a god too?"
"God of the sun. In practice that means he has absolutely nothing to do. Sun goes up, sun comes down. Child's play. Why?"
"I . . . He . . . I . . ."
"Did you shag him?" said hermes. "I wouldn't worry about that. Everybody shags him. Even I've shagged him. That was during a very boring decade. Oops, nearly missed my turn." . . .

"Please, can you just do something for me?" Alice pleaded. "Neil—the man I told you about—APhrodite knows who he is. So does Ares. And, well, Apollo, but . . ."
"I can't believe you didn't figure the god thing out for yourself," said Hermes. "Weren't the names a dead giveaway? No pun intended."
Or when Artemis finally realizes that Alice is missing.
"Why is the house so filthy? Have you seen Alice anywhere?"
"Yes, I saw her," said Hermes, coming to the threshold of the kitchen and leaning against the doorway. "A couple of weeks ago. I took her down to the underworld."
"What?" said Artemis. "Why did you do that?"
"Well, because she's dead," said Hermes.
"Dead?" said Artemis? "She can't be dead! Damn it! I've been so preoccupied. I should have known something like this would happen if I didn't supervise her properly. But she seemed so trustworthy! Stupid mortal. What did she go and die for?"
"It's not her fault," said Hermes. "Zeus killed her. Lightning bolt. On the day he got out."
"Zeus!" said Artemis. "How did he find out about her? I told her not to go up to the top floor."
"She didn't," said Hermes. "If you want my opinion, it's got something to do with Apollo."
"Well, she was on that program he did," said Hermes.
"She what?"
"—and Aphrodite got me to bring her in—"
"Aphrodite?" said Artemis. "What's she got to do with anything?"
"—and Apollo was acting all weird around her the whole time she was here, and then they kissed, and then he tried to rape her—"
"Hermes, how do you know all this?"
"It's my business to know."
Eros is another delightfully portrayed god in this book. But, then, he's also converted to Christianity.
"Eros, do you have the power to read minds? You've never done it before."
"No," said Eros. "It's just that, unlike you, I am familiar with feeling guilty. It's one of the things you have to learn if you're going to be a Christian."
Anyway, I found the book to be thoroughly entertaining. Yes, it can lead a bit toward the crass side. Ooh. So basically,
Bridget Jones's Diary : Pride and Prejudice :: Gods Behaving Badly : Greek Mythology/Orpheus
I think that sums it up rather nicely. The last twenty to thirty pages seemed to peter out a bit, both in terms of humor and style, but the rest was fun.

And, a special treat for Samantha, it is good to be a Scrabble master.
"Scrabble? Why didn't you say that in the first instance?" He sat forward eagerly. "Are you gifted?"
"Not really," said Alice. "I did come third in the British national under-sixteen championship."
"You are too modest," said Mr. Kunmanara. "At last this is something which can be of some use! Leisure, entertainment, these are the lifebloods of the dead community. You cannot yet imagine, Miss Mulholland, how very boring it is to exist here. A person of advanced skill at board games—this is a rare find indeed! Believe me, you will find yourself endlessly in demand."

Other reviews:
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Th. said...


Not very many tags in those excerpts....

Samantha said...

Mr. Kunmanara lies, as I have just proven in my last post.

eleka nahmen said...

Ok, I think I definitely need to read this book.

Suzanne said...

It was a fun fun book - I'm glad you enjoyed it.