Weight by Jeanette Winterson

Circe was my first adventure into the world of Greek mythology and if you follow me on twitter, you’ll know I asked you all to recommend some more in this genre. I’ve now got quite a few sitting in my pile and Weight was first to be picked up. I think it appealed to be most because it focuses on the myth of Atlas & Heracles; I’ve always been fascinated by Atlas and how it must have felt to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Whilst all authors are different, I was expecting something similar to Circe and this is why I was taken by complete surprise by this tale. Winterson has… oh I don’t even know how to word this… she’s put herself in the story by adding her thoughts throughout. Although this unusual style took a while to get used to, I like the questions it teased out of the myth. It made you analyse and think about the actions within the myth, rather than just settling down for a good ol’story.

When Heracles approaches Atlas to ask him to complete a task for him, it’s hardly surprising that Atlas would be glad of the opportunity to transfer the weight of the world to another. The task in question was to fetch three golden apples from Hera’s garden which is looked after by Atlas’ daughters.

Free of the burden, Atlas tried to trick Heracles into carrying the world permanently, however Heracles is one step ahead and manages to deceive Atlas, leaving Atlas holding the universe again.

Whilst I enjoyed refreshing my memory on this myth, I felt Winterson placed too much emphasis on sex (I feel like all I’ve done is complain about this lately!!). Some would argue this is an accurate depiction of the greek gods, because it is well known they were sauce pots, but it was TOO MUCH DETAIL for me. I’d read Circe, I’d seen how an author had included it without being crude, so to see it written so brazenly in Weight… it just didn’t work for me.

So all in all, I liked it but didn’t love it. It is definitely a memorable book because the style is so unusual. It’s made me want to read more greek mythology, as the myths are so colourful and powerful, but I now know I’m going to be just as picky in this genre.

So here’s a quick summary:

Pros

  1. The myth of Atlas and Heracles – if it’s a new one to your or just a refresher; you’ll find out more detail in this story!
  2. The writing style will make you pause and reflect on actions both Atlas and Heracles take, and whilst I still think Heracles is far too cocky for his own good, I softened to him. Winterson has peeled away the outer layers of these two masculine men (or should I say… gods) and revealed their inner thoughts.
  3. Consisting of only 151 pages and with short chapters, you’ll fly through the book!

Cons

  1. Sometimes the author’s thoughts take away from the retelling of the myth and make the story flow sporadically.
  2. Too. Much. Detail. The three words that popped into my head every time it got a bit fruity!

Anyone else read this? I really want to discuss it!

Weight is out now in paperback and eBook versions from Canongate publishers.

Until next time, Chloé x

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