Nathalie Haynes "The Children of Jocasta"

In her novel, the writer and journalist Nathalie Haynes tells the myth of Oedipus.

Oedipus, the son of the King of Thebes, who was abandoned by his parents when he was a baby, unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother, Jocasta. He fathers two sons and two daughters: Polyneikes and Eteocles, Antigone and Ismene.

The novel switches between two narrators, Jocasta and her youngest daughter Ismene, two women who are only of minor importance in the original myth. As the narrator’s perspective switches, so does the time reference. Jocasta describes past events, Ismene the present. Both narrations complement and explain each other.

Although the myth is well known, Natalie Haynes manages to present rare emotional glimpses of the inner lives of her characters. She also provides unique interpretations, for instance of the Sphinx or the abandoning of Oedipus as a newly-born child.

This novel, whose story takes place 3000 years ago, enables the reader to sympathise with both women. One of its essential topics which affects almost every character is guilt. However, even the vilest villains become somewhat understandable, their actions comprehensible.

A great book about power and loss and the desire to protect your loved ones.

An exciting and thrilling read.

Prof. Münzer-Jordan