The ancient Greeks gods are real, immortal and all living together in a run-down house in London: such is the premise of Marie Phillips’ novel Gods Behaving Badly. Why are Greek gods living in London, you might ask? Well, that is never really explained, but it probably has less to do with the plot and more with the fact that author lives in London herself and couldn’t be bothered to look up a Google map of Athens.
The house in question, being four hundred years old, is quite literally starting to fall apart at the seams and this prompts Artemis to hire a mortal cleaning woman named Alice. This starts the plot rolling when Aphrodite, to break up the boredom, tricks Apollo into falling in love with the Alice, setting off a chain of events that threaten to destroy the world. I couldn’t help but think that given the fact that Aphrodite has done this sort of thing to Apollo before, you wonder why he doesn’t recognize the signs.
While loosely a novel about the entire Greek pantheon, it centers primarily only on three of them and Phillips’s take on them isn’t particularly novel. Aphrodite is a conniving bitch, Apollo is an egotistical bore and Artemis is a dog walker. Some of the other gods are mentioned and introduced, but they only pop up when then plot calls for it. Hermes and Zeus especially are nothing more than walking exposition and a plot point, respectively. It is a shame since the club owning Dionysus and the spoiled Persephone had potential and some of the funnier aspects of the Gods Behaving Badly are Eros’s conversion to Christianity or Ares causing everyone to bicker every time he walks into a room. Alice and Neil, the two human characters of the book aren’t fleshed out much better, though their platonic courtship in the beginning is sweet, if rather flat.