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Gods Behaving Badly: A Novelby Marie Phillips
"The tension doesn't ratchet too high; it's a romantic comedy, after all. The key is to fly through a book like this very fast — on Hermes' wings. But Phillips has an Olympian sense of absurdity, and there's enough ambrosial wit here to seduce most mortals for an afternoon or two on the divan." Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
Synopses & Reviews
The Greek gods are alive and well and residing in a rundown London townhouse. When they're not moonlighting in the human professions — Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator — they are feuding among themselves (think Big Brother with superpowers). How else to pass the long centuries of eternity? Disturbingly, their power is not what it used to be, and even turning mortals into trees — a favorite pastime of Apollo's — is sapping their vital reserves of strength. Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between roommates Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of mankind. 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?
"British blogger Phillips's delightful debut finds the Greek gods and goddesses living in a tumbledown house in modern-day London and facing a very serious problem: their powers are waning, and immortality does not seem guaranteed. In between looking for work and keeping house, the ancient family is still up to its oldest pursuit: crossing and double-crossing each other. Apollo, who has been cosmically bored for centuries, has been appearing as a television psychic in a bid for stardom. His aunt Aphrodite, a phone-sex worker, sabotages him by having her son Eros shoot him with an arrow of love, making him fall for a very ordinary mortal — a cleaning woman named Alice, who happens to be in love with Neil, another nice, retiring mortal. When Artemis — the goddess of the moon, chastity and the hunt, who has been working as a dog walker — hires Alice to tidy up, the household is set to combust, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Fanciful, humorous and charming, this satire is as sweet as nectar." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Marie Phillips' first novel, 'Gods Behaving Badly,' hovers somewhere between 'Pride and Prejudice' and an episode of 'Bewitched.' I'm not complaining; I have an unusually high regard for Elizabeth Montgomery's oeuvre. And Austen got off some good lines, too. Phillips lives in London and studied anthropology at Cambridge, but now she's following that great British tradition of high-brow... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) silliness with a story that suggests the gods must be crazy. The premise of her sentimental sex-romp is that the Greek divinities are still alive, but barely. They're holed up in a London townhouse that they picked up for a song 350 years ago during the plague. But they've let it run to Hades, and there's only so much even a crafty god like Hephaestus can do when none of the others will so much as hang up a toga. As usual, these 12 unearthly, egotistical roommates bicker and complain and plot revenge. But believe me, it's a long way down from Ovid; closer to what MTV might call 'The Divine World.' The more you remember from Edith Hamilton's 'Mythology,' the more you'll snicker (or groan) at all this, but even if you think Hermes is a scarf designer, don't worry: Phillips lightly fills in the necessary details along the way. Aphrodite earns money as a phone-sex worker. Artemis is a dog walker. Dionysus runs a sleazy bar. And forget Bernini's vision of Apollo pursuing Daphne as she turns into a laurel tree. Nowadays, the hunky deity cruises for sex in Hampstead Heath and routinely ravishes his half sister in their fetid bathroom. Part of the comedy here is Phillips' musings on the state of religious faith. The gods, 'terribly weakened over time,' are suffering the effects of being unwanted, unneeded. People don't believe anymore, or they've fallen in with various heresies. 'If it wasn't for Jesus,' Artemis complains, 'I'd probably still be living on Olympus, running on the hillsides.' My God, even Eros has fallen under the spell of that famous carpenter. Bickering with Aphrodite, the petulant boy whines, 'I wish the Virgin Mary was my mother.' The only thing worse than these humiliations is the endless boredom they have to endure, and that turns out to be their Achilles heel. While taping the pilot episode of his new psychic TV show, Apollo spots a cleaning lady in the studio and falls hopelessly in love. (Eros has a hand — or arrow — in this, of course.) The object of Apollo's affection is Alice Mulholland, a plain, modest young woman who can't imagine why a handsome TV star would be interested in her. And besides, her heart belongs to equally virginal Neil, a geeky engineer who shares her love of crossword puzzles. On the outside, it doesn't look like a particularly fair fight: Apollo is the god of the sun; Neil is good at Scrabble. The real fun begins when Alice is hired for the Sisyphean task of cleaning the gods' house. She can't complain about the salary, but the owners are strange. 'She tried not to judge them; they were Greek, after all, and all families had their own ways.' Although Apollo has lots of time to woo Alice as she moves from one calamitous room to another, his technique has grown rusty over the centuries: 'It is a beautiful name,' he tells her, 'especially considering that it contains the word lice.' Miraculously, she resists his advances, even when he plays the pity card: 'We were ... famous once,' he tells her. 'Everyone knew who we were. People were different then. They believed. The adulation, the fame, it was like — well, it was worship, really. We lived in a palace — I wish you could have seen it, Alice! The fountains, the pleasure gardens, nymphs gliding gracefully through the forest — I never looked at them, of course. We had everything, literally everything. Can you imagine it?' 'It sounds nice,' Alice says. Spurned in love and frustrated about losing his power, Apollo lashes out in a way that threatens not only Alice but the whole world. Is lowly Neil ready for the Herculean challenge that the Fates have placed before him? Can this family of gods put aside their differences long enough to regain their former glory? The tension doesn't ratchet too high; it's a romantic comedy, after all. The key is to fly through a book like this very fast — on Hermes' wings. But Phillips has an Olympian sense of absurdity, and there's enough ambrosial wit here to seduce most mortals for an afternoon or two on the divan. Ron Charles is a senior editor of The Washington Post Book World. Send e-mail to charlesr(at symbol)washpost.com." Reviewed by Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Phillips nimbly creates a present-day alternative universe...and she does a particularly fine job envisioning an underworld that is neither heaven nor hell but simply eternal death. Not for the pious, but lots of fun for everyone else." Kirkus Reviews
"For a hip, irreverent airplane read, Gods Behaving Badly sticks to the ribs surprisingly well. The love story at its heart, and the heroism it inspires, is funny and heart-tugging, without off-putting histrionics.....Phillips has produced a novel with wit and staying power on her first try. (Grade: A-)" The Onion AV Club
"As it traces Neil and Alice's sweet and predictable little love plot, Phillips's novel sometimes threatens to descend...into something like bathos. But for the most part her nonchalant transposition of the ancients into post-postmodern life is seamless, amusing and blessedly unpretentious." Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times Book Review
"Phillips adheres to a nice, comedic sense of humor in a book that has sitcom written all over it....[TV] seems a perfect home for this a novel filled with subtle humor and a few deep thoughts about love, belief and renewal." Chicago Sun-Times
"[Phillips] has a charming comic touch and the laughs are real, even if some seem in need of a sitcom laugh track. But a high concept this lightweight can only lead to a predictable end..." USA Today
"In Marie Phillips' deft and droll first novel, the Greek gods and goddesses are alive — though not so well — and living in a decaying house in North London. This conceit could so easily founder, particularly over nearly 300 pages, yet Phillips pulls it off with enviable ease." Newsday
"Gods Behaving Badly is much more fun than it has any right to be. And although Ms. Phillips fulfills her purely lighthearted ambitions for this story, she provides a cautionary example to budding novelists everywhere." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse — and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog — walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees — a favorite pastime of Apollo's — is sapping their vital reserves of strength.
Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, 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?
The 12 Greek gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 21st century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse — and none too happy. Two perplexed humans are caught in the crossfire and nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed from these ordinary people to save the world.
About the Author
Marie Phillips is a Cambridge Anthropology graduate who left her job at the BBC to write and currently works in a bookshop in Central London.
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