Polari Prize: These Great Athenians by Valentine Carter

What is the Polari Prize?

These Great Athenians

Physical books will always, for me, be a far nicer experience than scrolling through ebooks. Simply flicking through the beautifully coloured edges of The Great Athenians: Retold Passages for Seldom Heard Voices is a wonderful experience.

Is it a myth? Is it poetry? It’s both.

The cover of These Great Athenians by Valentine Carter

I think, in the technicolour of hindsight, one of the things I enjoyed most about my story book of Greek myths was that all the people in them were, like me, at odds with the world in which they found themselves.

The book is a poetic retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, focusing on the women’s voices. 

Verse matched with design

Flick through the pages and each voice has its own coloured edging, leading you to each woman’s story. Stop and read, and you discover that the beauty continues past the design and into the words. 

Like ancient stories, Valentine Carter has used the poetic form to tell the stories of the women in a way that flows so naturally. And each voice feels unique, different. Creating those individual voices is a real skill and the rhythm of the writing really helps to lift the voices from the page to being characters, with life experiences.

Would I read more?

Because of timings and editing work, I simply don’t have time to review, in depth, all of the books on the shortlist. Maybe, in time, I will but by reading a short section, I thought I would be able to ask myself if I would want to read more of this book.

low angle photograph of the parthenon during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I don’t know much about Homer’s Odyssey. I probably should. Valentine Carter’s book has definitely inspired me to find out more and then to reread These Great Athenians with a far deeper understanding. I look forward to seeing the women again.

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Editor and proofreader specialising in LGBTQ+ writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

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