By Marie Phillips
Little, Brown, $23.99
REVIEW BY AMY SCRIBNER
So whatever happened to the Olympians? You know, the 12 Greek immortals who lived on Mount Olympus: Dionysus, god of wine. Aphrodite, goddess of love and fertility. Apollo, god of prophecy. Ares, god of war. Artemis, goddess of the hunt. And the rest of the gang. Turns out, since they fell out of vogue, they've been living in a decrepit London townhouse and, quite frankly, after all these years they're starting to get on each other's nerves.
That's the premise of the intriguing debut novel Gods Behaving Badly by English author Marie Phillips. Devastatingly beautiful Aphrodite works as a phone sex operator. Dionysus is a nightclub DJ on a never-ending search for debauchery. Apollo is a cheesy television psychic. Artemis walks dogs.
All those gods and goddesses living under one roof can really take its toll on a place. Their house is in shambles, so Artemis hires a housekeeper. Alice is a mousy, shy woman who was recently fired from her job cleaning the television studio where Apollo films his TV program. She's not sure what to make of her new employers, but she needs the paycheck. When a scheming Aphrodite convinces Eros, the god of love, to cast a spell, Apollo falls deeply in love with Alice. They make an unlikely pair, complicated by the fact that Alice already has a devoted secret admirer in her equally timid friend Neil.
The battle of wills between Aphrodite and Apollo intensifies, and Alice and Neil are caught in the crossfire. What follows is a surreal journey by the two mortals into the underworld (via the London tube, of course) in a bid to save mankind.
It's silly, to be sure, but what's wrong with silly? And somehow, with brisk writing and sly humor, Phillips spins this whimsical tale into something bigger. She gets at the heart of what it means to be needed, and why all of us—even immortals—crave it.
Amy Scribner writes from Washington
By Marie Phillips