Format Hardcover
Publication Date 03/07/23
ISBN 9781639363186
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 336

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Arcadian Days

Gods, Women, and Men from Greek Myths

John Spurling

"Breathtakingly successful." —Michael Dirda, Washington Post

A bold and dynamic retelling of five great male-female pairings from the Greek myths: Prometheus and Pandora, Jason and Medea, Oedipus and Antigone, Achilles and Thetis, and Odysseus and Penelope.

Award-winning historical novelist and playwright John Spurling draws on his lifelong love and knowledge of Classical Greek drama and poetry to reanimate five great male–female storylines from the Greek myths.

The Greek myths, refined by the great poets and playwrights of ancient Greece, distil the essence of human life: its brief span, its pride, courage, and insecurity, its anxious relationship with the natural world—earth, sea, and sky, represented by powerful gods and monsters.

Taking inspiration from the incomparably beautiful and intense poetry of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, John Spurling—a lifelong classicist and an award-winning playwright—spins five myths for contemporary readers. These captivating tales center on male-female pairs—Prometheus and Pandora, Jason and the sorceress Medea, Oedipus and his daughter Antigone, Achilles and his mother Thetis, Odysseus and Penelope—who, in the course of their stories, destroyed dynasties, raised and felled heroes, and sealed the fates of men.

John Spurling is an award-winning author and a prolific playwright with thirty plays performed on stage, radio, and television, including at the National Theater in London. He is the author of The Ten Thousand Things (winner of the Walter Scott Prize). John was born in Kisumu, Kenya, then later educated at St. John’s College, Oxford. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. For more information, please visit

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Endorsements & Reviews

"In Arcadian Days: Gods, Women, and Men From Greek Myths, John Spurling retells the single and shared stories of five pairs of males and females. Mr. Spurling, an English author and playwright, has introduced substantial passages of dialogue, a narrative choice that has the effect of adding slow-building dread and pathos.” Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal
"The novelist and playwright retells five Greek myths focused on male-female pairs, including Odysseus and Penelope, Oedipus and Antigone, and Prometheus and Pandora.”

The New York Times
"In this last, Spurling unexpectedly makes Odysseus a first-person narrator, allowing the reader to be privy to the hero’s thoughts. This shift in perspective proves breathtakingly successful in creating suspense, especially in the penultimate scene when a tattered beggar, mocked by Penelope’s boorish suitors, picks up Odysseus’s bow and checks to be sure that it is still sound." Michael Dirda, Washington Post
Praise for John Spurling’s Arcadian Nights:
"Arcadian Nights is a brilliant, riveting book that leaves its competitors behind, blinking into the distance, as surely as Theseus left Ariadne.” The Times Literary Supplement
"Classicists and non-classicists alike will love Arcadian Nights. A great book." Oxford Today
"This book shines. Seamlessly interweaves personal and historical perspectives. Arcadian Nights is good fun." Historical Novels Review
"The Greek myths are dusted off from old college readers like Edith Hamilton's Mythology and given new life in this fantastic collection... Well-written, Arcadian Nights will be difficult to put down." New York Journal of Books
"Spurling is trying to do for a new century what Edith Hamilton did when she published Mythology in 1942, and what others—from Ovid to Bulfinch and Robert Graves—have also done. His best moments come when he connects these ancient stories with their settings. Spurling is in good company in reimagining these enduring tales. ” Washington Independent Review of Books
"John Spurling in his Arcadian tales has done for Greek mythology what Neil Gaiman did for Norse mythology"
Hannah Lynn, author of Athena's Child