Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips


I have long been fascinated by myths and legends. It has always seemed that part of being an educated person meant a basic knowledge of Greek mythology. So when I stumbled upon Gods Behaving Badly at a local library sale for a couple of bucks I picked it up. Sure, Marie Phillips debut novel isn’t exactly a primer on Greek myths but who doesn’t like a little light humor with their mythology?

The hook for this particular take on the ancient Greek gods and goddesses has them living in a flat in London down on their luck with the world having forgotten about them. This lack of worship has weakened the gods and severely limited their powers. Aphrodite is a making ends meet as a sex phone operator. Dionysus operates a sleazy bar. Artemis is a dog walker. Apollo is trying to get his acting career off the ground by staring in a psychic TV show.

Despite their modern – and reduced – lifestyle the gods are still bickering and backstabbing each other like they have for centuries. In this way Aphrodite gets Eros to shoot Apollo with an arrow and cause him to fall in love with a rather shy cleaning lady named Alice. Alice is really in love with the equally shy Neil. When Artemis hires this same Alice to clean the god’s house it set off a chain reaction that threatens the mortal world. Neil is forced to play the role of hero. But first he has to believe the gods really exist.

Gods Behaving Badly is a romantic comedy with a Greek twist. And as such it is entertaining. The premise is creative and Phillips has fun with the concept. She has a light touch and quick wit. But despite its charms it left me disappointed.

I think perhaps I expected too much. As Ron Charles noted in his Washington Post review:

“The tension doesn’t ratchet too high; it’s a romantic comedy, after all. The key is to fly through a book like this very fast — on Hermes’ wings.”

But after awhile the initial premise isn’t enough to carry the novel and it feels flat. Phillips does attempt to bring the story to an eventful conclusion but the ending spoils it by being too pat and easy. Sure it is a comedy, but the ending is neither funny, nor imaginative, but predicable and with syrupy sweet postscript.

This strikes me as an example of “beach reading” light and fluffy and doesn’t require too much thought. If you approach with this in mind, and it matches your sense of humor, then you might enjoy it. For me, it was just a little too much fluff.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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