Battle of the Sexes!

Olympic Games
Leslie What
234 pages; published 2004

Hera could practically smell the seduction on his breath; the way Zeus offered her a goblet of sweetened wine, how he plumper her feather pillows and tenderly slid them beneath her back. He rubbed her feet with clove-scented oil, then performed her favourite little trick: lighting the clouds on fire to leave warm, moist trails of smoke. Delightful. Oh, her husband was an expert at seduction when he wanted to be.

There was only one problem and it was a big one.

Zeus was not seducing her. (12)

Since the beginning of time, Zeus and Hera have been King and Queen of the Gods: greatest of the Olympians and supreme overseers of mortal beings. This hasn’t changed, though the times certainly have. Thing is though, what is a god without anyone to worship them?

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, worship of the Greek Gods has all but disappeared, and many of the Olympians (all but Hera and Zeus, in fact) have elected to do just that themselves, simply fade out of existence rather than continue in an unworshipped state.

For Hera and Zeus, however, it’s life as usual: Zeus charms and philanders while Hera gripes and deals with the consequences of having such a husband. This is all well and good until, as prophesised by a street oracle, a flame from Zeus’ past comes back to wreak havoc on their newly re-established alliance.

Penelope was a water naiad Zeus seduced and trapped inside a tree back in the “old country.” When freed by a love starved hermit named Possum, her human presence alerts Zeus, whose interest is immediately reinflamed.

Meanwhile, Hera’s abandoned and genetically curious son, Igor, (half Greek God, half common bar beetle) mourns the absence of his ‘father’ in his life. Despite Hera’s, admittedly somewhat indifferent, wishes he sets out to seek Zeus out.

What will happen when all characters collide? Will Zeus accept his ‘son’ and, by extension, his long-suffering wife? Or will he go onto disrupt the happy life of Penelope and Possum, claiming what he thinks of as his own? And what of Hera? Will she learn to love her son as she should, or is everything simply lost in her unending task of reigning in Zeus?

Leslie What’s Olympic Games was an ‘almost’ book for me. By that I mean that the characters, story, writing, humour, everything, was ALMOST right. I enjoyed the book, but it left me with a feeling of falling short, as if it had potential that it didn’t quite meet.

Zeus was nothing more than a hedonistic womaniser and Hera a bitter, self-centred prima donna. While I accept that, as gods of a central idea of concept, these characters may become very focused, What’s interpretations were, in places, almost two dimensional. In all fairness, I am a long-time fan of shows such as Xena: the Warrior Princess and Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, whose visions of the gods are much more rounded; I already had high expectations.

Secondary characters (Possum, Igor) were a little more interesting, but it’s redeeming character was that of Eddie, the mentally retarded shop assistant, whose chapters were heart-wrenchingly honest. He made me laugh and he made me cry. For me, he saved the book.

I was interested to read that it was a short story that had been rewritten into a novel. That cleared up a lot for me. I think that, for me, it would have been more satisfying as a short story. 2.5/5

Purchase Olympic Games here.

Other Reviews
Have you written a review for this book? I would love to include it, comment below and I'll add your link!

No comments :