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This review is taken from PN Review 54, Volume 13 Number 4, March - April 1987.

RESURRECTING PERSEPHONE Jenny Joseph, Persephone (Bloodaxe Books), £12.95, £4.95 pb.

'A new kind of novel,' say the publishers. (Well, publishers have a product to sell.) The author herself demurs: 'Mixing forms is an old practice,' she writes in her afterword to this book of poetry and prose-pieces (including interior monologues, fictional transcripts of pub conversations and a social workers' case conference), a parody play-script, a spoof girls' photo-strip - all centring thematically on the Greek myth of the luring to the underworld of the daughter of the earth-goddess. Indeed, it is recurrence, rooted in nature, which this book celebrates.

We have become accustomed to women writers reworking myths to expose them as not after all representations of universal human truths, but expressions of particular ideological positions - usually masculist and empiricist. Angela Carter is the pastmistress of this kind of fictional deconstruction - Little Red Riding Hood turns wolfish, the wolf becomes an object of erotic desire; the world turns out not to be divided the way we may have assumed.

Jenny Joseph is a writer similarly concerned with the ambivalence of experience, and to this extent the Persephone myth serves her well - the seed within the shoot, life within death. However, in spite of her own reference to the ideological origins of the myth - 'one of the figures (Persephone) whose aid humans invoked . . . to propitiate . . . wronged ghosts' - Joseph leaves the components of the myth in their accustomed places, weighted with their traditional significances, and the ...


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