The thing is, I don’t think my husband expected me to be able to talk.
Pygmalion is one of the most-famous least-violent Greek myths. It’s the one in which a sculptor creates a statue and falls in love with it, the goddess of love takes pity on him, gives the statue life, and the sculptor and the now-living statue (sometimes named Galatea) get married. Maybe they have a kid or two, depending on which version of the story you read. The end.
Galatea, by Madeline Miller, takes place a little while after those events. Told from the point-of-view of Galatea, it’s a short, gut-punch of a story and a LOT darker than the original myth.
Galatea is certainly more feminist than the Pygmalion myth. In the original story, Galatea is literally an object, with the love of the male sculptor and his desires being the subject of that story. The protagonist of Galatea, however, is melancholy, bitter, angry, perceptive, loving, and unmistakably ALIVE.
Miller’s straighforward-yet-lyrical writing style she uses in her longer novels — The Song of Achilles and Circe — is also present in Galatea. But there’s more of a thriller-genre feeling to this work, as if the movie Sleeping with the Enemy was cast as a Classical myth and then retold by a master storyteller.
Because this story is short and relatively inexpensive (the digital version, anyway), it might be a good starting point for readers to try out Miller’s work. On the other hand, this is a short story, not a novel like her other stuff. At the risk of stating the obvious, short stories and novels are very different things. I’m not sure that liking or disliking this short story will provide much insight into whether or not someone would like Miller’s novels. Circe is probably a better introduction, with Galatea serving as an excellent dessert or side dish (I’m apparently hungry) to that reading experience.
My rating: 5 stars