I am hoping that should my mother read this (as she does pop by to have a gander from time to time I believe) she will be chuffed by this post. You see my mother is a classicist and though she has never said it I think she does wish that just one of her children might show an interest, having said that my sister and brother are only eleven and eight so there is time yet for them to catch the bug. As a child I was brought up on the Greek Myths, went to Greece regularly and like many youngsters can grew incredibly bored by it all (ungrateful swine is what I think now) I think getting 99% in Classics at the School my Mum taught in and getting ridiculed didn’t help. Recently reading ‘Where Three Roads Meet’ by Salley Vickers has reignited an interest of old though.
‘Where Three Roads Meet’ is one of the Canongate Myth series a series in which modern authors take classic myths from around the world and retell them in their own way. With this novel Salley Vickers gives us the retelling of ‘Oedipus’ the Greek legend of a man who killed his father and then married and had children with his mother, though its not quite as simple as that but I wouldn’t want to take all the fun out of the plot if you haven’t yet heard the tale. This myth was then used by Sigmund Freud who came up with the now famous ‘Oedipus Complex’. What Salley Vickers does, and its no easy task, is manage to combine the myth with the last days in Freud’s life.
I had no real prior knowledge of Freud’s life and so to discover that he had cancer of the mouth and the last years of his life with all the operations and horrendous pain (for it was the 1930’s and medicine was not so advanced). Vickers uses this time when he was on a lot of morphine for a strange visitor to appear to him one day, almost frightening the life out of him, to tell him a tale of a place where three roads meet and a story Freud knows well but not from someone who might just have been there. With a novel like this you do need to be able to suspend your belief and go along with the tale but then if you are reading a myth in the first place that shouldn’t be a problem.
What adds to the book is how the two narrators discuss the tale and all the questions it brings up of sexuality, the role of women (sure to get the feminists out there slightly annoyed) and many of Freud’s own ideas and theories. I found it all quite fascinating. I also like the way that the characters looked at words and how they originated in small asides during the tale, for example…
‘- You know, “kindness” has an interesting etymology. Its root is “kin”. I met it only this morning looking through Hamlet again. “A little more than kin but less than kind”, Hamlet says of his uncle.
– I’m not familiar with your friend, Dr Freud, but as you go through life you come to see the worth of those who make you feel they are your kind.
– Hamlet wouldn’t have quarrelled with that. Please go on. ‘
I enjoyed this book and I think if you are interested in the myths and love language then you will too. If you are a fan of Vickers work then don’t go into it thinking it will be anything like ‘Miss Garnett’s Angel’ as the style and prose are all completely different, yet it still has that wonderful story telling quality. I haven’t read many of the Myths series yet but so far ‘Girl Meets Boy’ by Ali Shaw is still my favourite. I am wondering if any of the series retell my very favourite myth of Persephone. If not I am wondering if Canongate would let me have a go? I have a very good idea of setting it in London and in fact around the British Museum, I shall say no more but the idea is very firmly lodged in my brain.
Back to book though and I do certainly plan on reading more of the Myths that’s for certain and indeed have a couple on the TBR, which one should I go for next I wonder? Have any of you read them? Also what Vickers would you recommend for me to have a look at next as I am also keen to read much more of her work. Oh and before I vanish, one more question. I am wondering if any of you could recommend a cracking edition of a collection of all the Greek Myths. I think I want to get myself buried deeply in them once more.