|I am going to keep this review short, or else this review will end up becoming a 1500+ words rant about how male authors need to practice nuance and sensitivity when writing books about women and issues regarding women. At the very least, they should hire female sensitivity readers who can point out some of the problems I will mention here and how to write them better.|
The Rape Trial Of Medusa tells us the story of a very well-known Greek mythology, but with a twist. Set in modern times, we witness the trial of Medusa who was raped and blamed for her beauty, and unfairly punished by Athena.
Young and beautiful, Medusa was alone in Athena’s Temple, where she was raped. She did not see her attacker and Athena blamed and punished the young maiden for her rape.
Athena cursed Medusa into the infamous snake-headed monster whose gaze turns any man into stone. After all her years in exile, on her rocky island, Medusa Gorgon will finally have her trial, in New York City.
Medusa will be defended by Maggie Harper, the famous defender of women and their rights. This international trial of the century is loaded with politics, moralists, and media of all types, asking the questions: Was Medusa raped? If so, who raped her? And why was she cursed into a monster?
Trigger Warnings: graphic violence, sexual abuse, rape, murder, torture
This book had a lot of promise but ultimately failed to deliver. Several times, the writing showed blatant sexism, which is ironic considering the book is supposed to be a thought-provoking novel and a social commentary on misogyny.
For starters, every female character is introduced by their appearance and is sexualized in some way. Sure, characters like Maggie Harper, Medusa’s lawyer, is without a doubt a badass. BUT, there is a lot of unnecessary focus on how she is sexy and was formally a model. I fail to see how that detail was necessary here.
This goes for pretty much all the female characters in this book, and that’s what bothered me a lot. They are all described as being “slim, sexy” and is essentially appealing to the male gaze. There is only female character who is overweight, and the book focuses more on her insecurities about her weight than her positive traits or qualities.
The male characters on the other hand, as you can expect, are not described similarly and the focus is never on how muscular they are or how insecure they are about their beer bellies.
Very telling, isn’t it?
A book that is supposed to discuss misogyny in society should be treating its female characters with much more respect instead of focusing solely on their appearance.
There were also many, many senseless depictions of violence. I am not one to shy away from graphic scenes of blood and gore, let me be clear on that. I have read and loved Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, which also details the horrifying experiences of a rape victim forced to live with her abuser. I am perfectly fine with graphic violence IF they serve a purpose in the story or in character development.
What I absolutely do not accept, is violence for the sake of violence. As a survivor myself, my blood boils when I see authors depicting graphic scenes of violence just for the shock factor, just to horrify readers instead of using those scenes to raise awareness about the severity of abuse.
Another note; a book that explores misogyny by depicting a rape trial shows absolutely no emotional scars of sexual trauma. Not once did we get to see the emotional effect of abuse on Medusa’s mental well-being; we even see her moving on sexually with a character without any fear of intimacy, which is so unrealistic that it almost made me laugh. Take this from a survivor; when you have been sexually abused, it is NOT EASY to be intimate again, especially without having some difficult conversations about what is triggering and what isn’t.
I also didn’t understand why the author kept referring to Medusa’s headscarf as “hijab”. A hijab is more than a head covering; it is the practice of modesty and is mandatory to be observed by both Muslim men and women alike. The fact that the writer did not do this basic research did not set well with me.
It’s very disappointing really, because the concept of this book was so promising. I loved the hilarious modern take on ancient Greek mythology and Greek gods, and some of the parodies such as Zeus as a stand-in for Donald Trump was super creative. Kudos to the author for that. But the rest of the book was a complete let down.
If you really want to read a book that explores sexism and misogyny in our society, there are plenty of other good options. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is the first that comes to mind; it should be required reading in schools and colleges, it’s that good.
P.S: While looking at other reviews of this book on GoodReads, I discovered another great book blogger Annie from Behind My Bookcase, who wrote a very thoughtful and eloquent review of this book. Do check it out here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and from NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All thoughts in this review are completely my own.