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Geraldine McCaughrean

Geraldine McCaughrean (1951- )
Geraldine McCaughrean was brought up in North London and now lives in Berkshire. She studied at Christ Church College of Education, Canterbury and worked in a London publishing house for 10 years before becoming a full-time writer in 1988. She has written over 120 books, 50 short plays for schools, and a radio play. We’ll list here the books we’ve reviewed, but you can find more, mostly myths and legends rewritten for children, at Geraldine McCaughrean’s website.

Perseus: A great way to introduce children to Greek myths

Perseus by Geraldine McCaughrean

There are probably much shorter retellings of this hero-story, and there are probably quite a few longer ones — but if you wish to avoid the simplicity of a picture book and the long-windedness of an epic, then I don't think you'd find any reason to complain about Geraldine McCaughrean's version of the Perseus myth. In fact, I would go so far as to say that its fidelity to the well-known myth and the lyrical prose in which it is told make it the quintessential retelling of the ancient story (perhaps a premature claim considering I'm far from having read them all, but this would surely be up there in the top five!).

King Acrisius foolishly asks the Epidauran Oracle how he will die, and gets a devastating answer: it will be at the hands of his own grandson. Inevitably, he takes pains to ensure that his daughter Danae will never beget a child, by locking her up in a specially-design... Read More

Hercules: The best of McCaughrean’s retellings

Hercules by Geraldine McCaughrean

Geraldine McCaughrean has written four retellings of Greek myths, fleshing out the personalities of various heroes and the circumstances that made them legendary. In her beautiful, fluid prose, McCaughrean hits the perfect balance in presenting the darker aspects of the myths without being either too gratuitous or too prissy. In this case, McCaughrean takes the figure of Hercules (who in a Greek setting, should technically be called "Heracles"). In his youth Hercules meets the personifications of Virtue and Vice, who offer him the choice of his destiny. Hercules chooses hardship and suffering over happiness — albeit somewhat accidentally — and so his fate is sealed.

The son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Hercules is imbued with supernatural strength even in his infancy. Saddled with the burden of his phenomenal physical strength and his inability to control it, his early life is ... Read More

Theseus: Another fascinating retelling of an ancient myth

Theseus by Geraldine McCaughrean

Out of all the heroes in the Greek mythology canon, Theseus always struck me as the most pitiable. Though he started out promisingly enough, a string of bad decisions and unlucky circumstances left him the most broken of all the heroes in Greek mythology. In her retelling of his story, Geraldine McCaughrean pinpoints the reason for all this misery, Theseus's fatal pride, and maps the trail of ruined lives and broken hearts that Theseus leaves behind him before his sins finally catch up with him.

King Aegeus of Athens is desperate for a son, but is joyful when the sorceress Medea tells him that the next woman he holds in his arms will grant him a child. Aegeus hurries home to his wife, stopping only to visit his friend King Pittheus. But when Pittheus's daughter Aethra accidentally falls into his lap, Aegeus recalls the prophetic words, and hides his sandals and sword under a huge r... Read More

Odysseus: A straightforward adaptation

Odysseus by Geraldine McCaughrean

This, the forth and final book in Geraldine McCaughrean's stories of Greek heroes, (preceded by Perseus, Hercules  and Theseus) is the only one based on actual literature: Homer's Odyssey. As such, McCaughrean does not have to pick and choose aspects of convoluted and often contradictory myths; her source material has already been written, providing a fairly linear sequence of events. As such, the stories concerning Odysseus have always been more straightforward than those of his peers.

The retelling begins well after the Trojan War, with Odysseus sailing home with his fleet of ships to his small kingdom of Ithaca, where his wife Penelope and son Telemachus await him. He has not seen them in ten long years, and the voyage home is a dangerous one. Meanwhile, int... Read More