By Priya Sharma
Author: Priya Sharma
Publisher: PS Publishing
- ISBN: 9781786368751
- Published: December 2022
- Pages: 108
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 01/05/2023
- Language: English
In the aftermath of the global pandemic, there is a darkness to the world that has yet to retreat. The way in which writers approach their craft in this moment is crucial. Some are electing to ignore it in the stories that they create, whilst others embrace the context directly in their work.
In genre fiction, the importance of the decision is an acute one. The readership has experienced a cultural and historical moment that will define the early part of the twenty-first century. Such circumstances might have been fuel for a horror story or a future apocalypse. Unfortunately, they were neither of these things, Instead, they were real life events.
Pomegranates by Priya Sharma, is a novella that acknowledges the contemporary context we find ourselves in. The story uses classical Greek mythology as a framework to comment on modern society, amalgamating the classic story of Demeter, Persephone and Hades into present day.
Persephone’s life as the consort of Hades is imagined differently to the traditional story of kidnap and blackmail. The pomegranate trap of legend is retold in such a way as to make you reconsider the circumstances of her marriage and annual pilgrimage to and from the Underworld. The Persephone of Sharma’s story is a more powerful character, granted more control over her own fate. The ebb and flow of the seasons have always been attributed to the grieving of her Demeter as her daughter fulfils her commitment to rule in the land of the dead. In this story, this explanation sits alongside the modern disruption of climate change.
The fusion of the classic with the contemporary is an uneasy fit, but that is intentional. In Demeter’s interactions with others, she responds to questions by telling the classic origin story of the first Greek gods. In this novella, we know this is her sharing her truth, but those listening believe this to be her concealing her real name and the trauma of her past.
This is the way in which Sharma reconciles the different elements of her story. The scenes switch between viewpoint characters. Flashbacks provide exposition for the current crisis – a world locked in crisis, provoked by the suspension the Gods work. Vivid descriptive writing creates scenes with vibrant hues and visceral sensation where the narrative swirls around its protagonists. The tale of the Gods is retold with a twist, the historical obfuscation over problematic elements of the narrative is thrown back and we confront the issues that have been glossed over. Rape, abuse and gaslighting, all revealed for what they really are. Behind all of this is a confident writer, assured and capable in her craft.
Classic fantasy re-imagines the wonder and magic of myth and legend, but often avoids the meaning behind the ancient stories. The cultures that lurk behind the hubris of Gods and Goddesses are often more important than the stories themselves. Sharma’s reinvention of a classic narrative into a comment on the assumptions and excuses made by re-tellers of those myths and by the audiences that heard them offers something new.
Perhaps this is the way to reconcile a flawed story from ancient times with the flawed world we find ourselves in today?
Written on 1st May 2023 by Allen Stroud .