Fabulous by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Fabulous cover

Fabulous is a collection of short stories that retell famous myths in modern Britain, twisting ancient tales into relatable modern snippets. Orpheus, Psyche, Tristan and Isolde, the Pied Piper, and Mary Magdalen are just some of the figures given fresh new versions of their stories, mixing criminal gangs, immigration, estate agents, pest control, love and more.

The stories are knowing and witty, using observations and comments on modern society to try and make these very famous tales fresh. As expected, they vary in how they engage with the source tale, but the original myth is always central to the narrative and characters. Stand out highlights include the story of Diana and Actaeon with estate agents, Pasiphae and the minotaur with seaside gangsters, and adding further complications and some pink pills to the story of Tristan and Isolde. The two Biblical ones—Joseph and Mary Magdalen—are interesting, but may be more appreciated by someone who doesn’t have more knowledge of Greek myth and Arthurian legend than Biblical material.

It is the kind of book that is perfect for picking up and reading single stories, dipping in or choosing the figures that most interest you. The modern retellings are clever and fun, and the end has a quick guide to the original tales for anyone who didn’t know (or Google) them previously. There’s a delight in how famous the original stories are and how ordinary the characters in these versions can be.