The curse of Medusa: Stone Blind, by Natalie Haynes, reviewed

Natalie Haynes has been compared with Mary Renault, the historical novelist who scandalised readers in the 1950s with her unflinching portrayal of homosexual relationships in ancient Greece. While the comparison isn’t quite right – their prose styles could hardly be more different – Haynes is certainly alert to what rankles most deeply in modern society, and the ways in which these issues may shape attitudes to antiquity. In Stone Blind, her retelling of the Medusa myth, women emerge from the other side of #MeToo and reveal the gods and heroes for the dolts and sexual predators they always were. ‘I’m moving because you’re sitting so close that your hip was

Dancing on Terence Conran’s grave

‘Who,’ asks Stephen Bayley, in one of the ‘S.B’ chapters of this irresistibly spiky co-written book, ‘could countenance working for a man like Terence, a man of such fluid principles, of such day-glo opportunism, of such sun-dried narcissism, guiltless hypo-crisy and Hallelujah Chorus egomania?’ Well, both S.B. and R.M. (the ad man Roger Mavity) did work for Terence Conran, in exalted positions. Both fell out with him, and both experienced at first hand all those qualities and more. In their separate chapters they take turns to express the essence of his genius and to get their own back for his disdainful treatment of them. One of his worst traits was

Life’s a bitch: Animal, by Lisa Taddeo, reviewed

Lisa Taddeo’s debut Three Women was touted as groundbreaking. In reality it was a limp, occasionally overwritten account of the sexual hang-ups of three ordinary women. It took eight years to research and write. It didn’t seem worth it. Luckily, she was also gathering material for a novel, Animal, a book teeming with the rage, frustration and drama so lacking in the debut. The same motifs and ideas —mothers, desire, shame — appear, but with a story that twists and turns. Animal is the first-person account of Joan, a slightly unhinged 37-year-old woman: ‘I am depraved. I hope you like me.’ She leaves New York after her former lover shoots

Best served cold: 10 films about revenge

The plot of Academy Award nominated Promising Young Woman (finally available to watch on Sky Cinema and NOW TV) centres on Cassie who adopts a novel approach to avenging the rape of her friend. Revenge has featured as a key theme in literature and drama virtually since writing began, from Euripides (Medea) and Seneca (Thyestes) to Shakespeare (Titus Andronicus), Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo) and more recently Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl). The Jacobean era (1603-25) saw an intense interest in retribution as the subject matter for plays, with a fair few still performed to this day, works such as The Duchess of Malfi (John Webster), ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (John Ford) and The

Clever, funny and stomach-knotting: Promising Young Woman reviewed

Promising Young Woman is a rape-revenge-thriller that has already proved divisive but is a wonderfully clever, darkly funny, stomach-knotting — my stomach may never unknot — exploration of what #notallmen seem to get: it isn’t OK to have sex with a woman who has had a few too many and isn’t in a position to give consent. Unless, of course, she is also out late at night and wearing a short skirt in which case: asking for it. We all know that. This is written and directed by the extraordinary polymath that is Emerald Fennell, who was head writer for the second series of Killing Eve, has collaborated with Andrew

The necessary politics of Promising Young Woman

Last month there occurred an event so culturally seismic that it made, well, a barely perceptible dent on the news headlines. Not just one but two actual women were nominated for the Best Director Award at the Oscars, a category that has for many years now been open to five nominees. It was the first time that two women have ever made it into contention in the same year and, by their audacious presence at the top table, Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) have at a stroke increased the number of women the Oscars have ever nominated for this prize from five to seven. (Only one,