Friday, 21 August 2020

Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters by: Nikita Gill

Genre: Mythology, Poetry
Published: September 5, 2019 by: Ebury Press
Pages: 256
Rating: 5/5 stars
Content warnings: sexual assault, misogyny, violence related to war. I will also briefly discuss transphobia at the end of this review.

We've heard of the infamous stories of Greek female figures such as Medusa and Athena, but do we really know their perspectives? In this powerful poetry collection, Nikita Gill retells the myths of the most famous women in Greek mythology, but through a feminist perspective. Gill explores not only the traditional versions of the myths, but she also places these characters inside a more modern setting in order to display their struggles as if they were happening in real time.

I should start off by saying that I am by no means, a poetry person. I can't write it to save a life, I don't really read a lot of it, and sometimes the meanings of poems can just go way over my head. I can respect it, but a poetry book is definitely not my first choice for reading. That being said, I absolutely ADORED this collection.

I was willing to give this book a shot because of the Greek mythology premise. I am a complete mythology nerd and will pretty much give anything with the word "goddess" in the title, a shot. I also thought the cover was beautiful so I lowkey just wanted this book on my shelf. And I have to say, this was probably the best collection of poetry I have ever read.

I appreciated that Gill was accurate with the myths, while still retelling them in her own unique way. This book is ultimately a feminist retelling of myth, which is something that I can always get behind. But what made Gill's poems really stick with me, is that she not only retells the myths in the ancient setting, but she also places these characters in the real world. Suddenly Aphrodite is a badass entrepreneur having to deal with a misogynistic partner in Ares. Medusa is dealing with rape culture. Gill gives these characters a new breath of life by putting them into situations that a lot of women can relate to. It was something I have never seen done before in a mythology retelling.

Gill's writing captivated me. Like I said before, me and poetry don't always click. But Gill has a way of writing that just completely pulls you in like a magic spell. Her poems are easy to get through and easy to grasp, but not at all lacking in meaning. I think Gill is very talented at what she does. If I were to write poetry, this is how I would want to write it.

I think this book taught me that sometimes reading outside of your comfort zone can pay off. I was worried to go into a poetry book. But it ended up being a standout book of my summer. I think any woman, whether they are into mythology or not, can find something in this collection that resonates with them. I know I did.

A note:

Something I was thinking about a lot when reviewing this piece is that we should be critically examining the feminist works of media that we consume, to make sure that they are intersectional. This book was great considering it was written by a WOC who also vocally expresses support for the trans community, and there is also LGBT representation, as well as characters who do not conform to the gender binary. However, given the current rise in women who like to call themselves "feminists" but who actively exclude trans women and others in the LGBTQ+ community, I feel that it is important that we look into how the authors of the feminist works we read treat the trans community. And remember, if your feminism excludes trans women, then it is not feminism.

Have you read Great Goddesses? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. I read another poetry collection by this author and really enjoyed it, so I'm definitely adding this one to my tbr. The mix of poetry and mythology sounds really interested and I'm intrigued to see how the author retold the myths.

    Sofia @ Bookish Wanderess

    1. I definitely would like to read more from Nikita Gill. Her writing style seems to really click with me!

  2. *whispers* everyone is a poetry person. Poetry belongs to everyone, not solely the elite and academic. Your interpretations are as valid as a literature professor's. <3

    I read something by Nikita Gill which was fairytale based... *goes to Google* ...Fierce Fairytales. Wow, Cee, that was so hard to remember *rolls eyes at self*

    Anyway, I loved that one. And it had a gorgeous fox on the cover... I'm so deep and not at all easy to distract! (Lol.)

    I think I heard that Nikita Gill's Queer, too... not 100% certain on that though! :)

    1. I really like your thoughts on poetry, Cee! I think that since the only exposure I usually have with poetry is in an academic setting, I get intimidated by it. But I think I need to go by your definition.

      If she’s queer, then that is such a bonus! I definitely think it is important that we lift up the voices of queer women. They are often very underrepresented.

  3. How have I never heard of this? I have heard of Nikita Gill and of course I adore mythology...I need to read this. And look at that cover! I am not always a poetry person, either, but thematically, this seems right up my alley. I love a good feminist retelling, which is one of the reasons I love Circe by Madeline Miller so much. BRB, I need to add this to my TBR right now. Fantastic review, as always!

    1. I know you'd be interested in this one, Erin! Anyone who shares a love for Madeline Miller has to give this a go.