Heroes By Stephen Fry
A Review By Phaidra Robinson
‘The gods in Greek myth represent human motives and drives that are still mysterious to us. Might as well call them a god as an impulse or complex. To personify them is a rather smart way – not of managing them perhaps, but of giving shape, dimensions and character to the uncontrollable and unfathomable forces that control us.’ – Heroes by Stephen Fry
Although not a flash fiction, or even a collection of flash fiction works, I chose to review this book for this issue of The Open Page Literary Journal because myths are almost flash fictions of their own – the stories and epics intertwining, and characters and gods turning up in others’ own short stories and adventures. Despite the intrinsically complicated nature of Greek myths, Fry does a fantastic job of weaving a strong plot through the various stories (with the aid of the occasional footnote). I listened rather than read the predecessor to Heroes, Mythos, and rarely do I find that a book doesn’t quite work in audio, but both of these books are very immersive and tend to refer to smaller details, so if you want a deep dive into mythology, I’d recommend buying the physical copy.
As someone who has always found Greek mythology fascinating (the side effect of being named Phaidra, a variation of Phaedra, who turns up in the story of Theseus), I loved reading this fun interpretation of the great Greek heroes while still staying as loyal as possible to the source material. Fry recounts the stories of Perseus, Heracles, Theseus, Atlanta (my personal favourite), Bellerophon, Orpheus (a close second favourite), Jason and Oedipus. He humorously approaches these famous stories while still incorporating these heroes’ flaws, which somehow makes them even more heroic – their humanity shaping their heroic stories and failures, usually with the help or hindrance of a god or two.
Overall, I think that this book is an entertaining and educational approach to the Greek myths, while still making them approachable for modern audiences. I enjoyed the use of footnotes to contextualise the cast of characters and remind us where they have intersected before, as well as interesting facts that are characteristic of Stephen Fry.