Galatea by Madeline Miller
In Ancient Greece, a skilled marble sculptor has been blessed by a goddess who has given his masterpiece – the most beautiful woman the town has ever seen – the gift of life. Now his wife, Galatea is expected to be obedience and humility personified, but it is not long before she learns to use her beauty as a form of manipulation. In a desperate bid by her obsessive husband to keep her under control, she is locked away under the constant supervision of doctors and nurses. But with a daughter to rescue, she is determined to break free, whatever the cost…
I do love Madeline Miller so when I saw this short story I immediately preordered the book off Waterstones. I read this short story over a mug of tea one afternoon between teaching.
I know the story of Pygmalion which was first told in the now lost Hellenistic work “De Cypro” by Philostephanus and then retold in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In Ovid’s telling, Pygmalion is a king and sculptor who carves a statue of a woman out of ivory and falls in love with the statue. Aphrodite answers Pygmalion’s prayers and turns the statue to a real life woman who he marries. The woman never actually gets a name in the original texts and the name Galatea which means “she who is milk white” was not associated with Pygmalion’s statue until approximately the early 1700’s.
In Miller’s retelling of this tale the focus is on Galatea rather than Pygmalion which makes a nice change from the usual male perspective. In this retelling Galatea says she was made out of stone rather than ivory but this fits better with Miller’s retelling than ivory would.
I did enjoy this little story and it was nice to hear Galatea’s voice because she doesn’t get a voice in Ovid’s version. As a reader you can’t help but feel sorry for Galatea who never had any say on her life from the moment Pygmalion carved her and you can see how she suffers. I really wish this story had been longer as I think it would have made an excellent book, as a short story I just didn’t feel like it had enough in it to really get me absorbed into the book like I have been with Miller’s full length books. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.
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About the author
Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.
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