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A Review of the novel by Alex Michaelides
I love Alex Michaelides’ books because they always make me think “What the f*** just happened?”
The Maidens is Michaelides’ second book and it follows a group therapist, Mariana, who is pulled into a murder investigation after her niece Zoe’s friend is killed. With little but circumstantial evidence, Mariana becomes convinced that the charismatic professor Edward Fosca is the killer. But given all the information I just told you is in the book flap, one might guess Edward is not the murderer (probably). I love that Alex Michaelides gives the reader a wild whodunnit murder mystery filled with psychological drama.
Mariana is half Greek — likely inspired by Michaelides’ own upbringing in Greece. This allows Michaelides’ to overtly use themes from Greek mythology and poetry. The two main stories that are intertwined in the novel are the story of Iphigenia, who is killed by her father Agamemnon to appease the gods during the Trojan War, and the story of Persephone and Demeter. Demeter is heartbroken when her daughter Persephone is married to and abducted by Hades in a plot conducted in cahoots with Persephone’s father Zeus. Despite being kidnapped, Persephone decides she wants to stay with Hades when given the choice. Demeter threatens to stop tending the earth (essentially destroy the world) if Persephone leaves, so Zeus compromises, decreeing Persephone will spend 6 months of the year with Demeter and 6 months with Hades.
These two Greek stories summarize (and cunningly reveal) many of the plots and themes that occur in the novel. Women are sacrificed for a cause that the murderer believes with fierce religiosity, like Agamemnon with Iphigenia. Mariana, like Demeter, is obsessed with with protecting Zoe, who she perceives to be purely innocent. Some characters are seduced by evil men but will do anything to protect and be with them.
One weird aspect of the book is that all the men Mariana meets in this book are age appropriate, unmarried, and good-looking. I was surprised when attractive male characters kept popping up left and right. Additionally, the women Mariana interacts with are all either college age or very old. Michaelides’ is great at writing the inner turmoil and tension of his characters, but he has not yet mastered writing the complexity of relationships between female characters or friendships between male and female characters.
Overall, I loved this book and finished it in a day. It was entertaining, fast-paced, and had an unexpected ending — the perfect summer read.
The Don’t Call Me Ishmael Official Book Rating, Sponsored by Whales Against the Use of Parasols — We’re All Wet Anyway (WAUP-WAWA):
4/5 Whales — A Tail for the Ages