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Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel, by Marie Phillips (Read by Tom Sellwood)

Gods Behaving Badly
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Oliver Twist and Tiny Tim weren't the only fictional characters to find themselves in unfortunate circumstances in the cool indifference of London. It's 21st Century England, and the Greek gods and goddesses of Olympus are living together in a house in London's East End. Since their powers are waning and they must save their reserves for truly important work, they can't conjure up money for normal living expenses. To earn money, each has taken a job related to his or her former area of interest or achievement on Olympus. Artemis, the goddess of chastity and of the hunt, is a dog walker. The sensual Aphrodite is a popular phone sex operator. Hermes is a messenger, and the fabulously handsome Apollo is a television personality. Petty jealousies become full blown battles as the gods become more fearful that their powers will dissipate completely, and a series of misdirected spells throws the mortal world into chaos. Caught in the middle, between the household of the gods and everyday London is Alice, the naive cleaning lady. She and her boyfriend Neil must try to save not only their own lives, but the entire planet.

Marie Phillips has written a delightful book, peopled with quirky, exasperating, humorous, heroic, charming, diabolical characters. In short, there's someone for everyone. The juxtaposition of modern London lifestyles with mythological figures creates situations that are comical, but often thought-provoking. Artemis is concerned about ecology and realizes that while her responsibilities in regard to chastity and the hunt have changed, they're still important for survival and harmony. Eros has embraced Christianity and tries to introduce the other gods to the importance of feeling guilt. It's bizarre, but enchanting, to hear MP3 players and the Underworld discussed in the same conversations. Tom Sellwood is the perfect narrator for this audio book. His range of voices is so vast that I found myself checking the credits to see if Jim Dale of Harry Potter fame was really narrating. Sellwood's sultry Aphrodite, arrogant Apollo, naïve Alice and imperious Hades are in distinct contrast to his plain-spoken, cockney-accented Neil.

Between Phillips' clever and imaginative plotting, characterization and dialogue and Sellwood's mesmerizing reading, the fortunate listener is treated to an enthralling adventure. Spirited from the streets of London to the underworld and back, in the company of gods and goddesses, the listener can't help but appreciate the whimsy the author and reader have created. Although this is essentially a heartwarming book, there are enough incidents of conflict, danger and suspense to keep it from being sweet. An added benefit of listening to Gods Behaving Badly is the intense desire to brush up on your mythology. Do I hear a teacher's siren song? Highly recommend for entertainment and intellectual stimulation.

Ruth Mormon

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