Apr 3, 2008

Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block

Francesca Lia Block’s version of this well-known Greek myth manages to be completely innovative and faithful to the original at the same time. In Psyche in a Dress, Psyche is the daughter of a movie director who exploits her beauty in his work. His girlfriend, Aphrodite, is jealous of Psyche, and it’s at her request that her son Eros first visits Psyche in the dark.

After losing Eros, Psyche begins a journey through a world of loneliness, addiction and abuse. She becomes Narcissus’ Ecco, Orpheus’ Eurydice, Hades’ Persephone, and later Demeter. Her search for her lost love is also a lifelong search for her identity, for strength.

Just “like East of the Sun, West of the Moon” is my favourite fairy tale, “Eros and Psyche” is my favourite Greek myth. There is just something about the story of two lovers becoming so in the dark that really captures me. So I was thrilled to discover a novel-length version of this myth. I was surprised that Francesca Lia Block also incorporated other Greek myths into this story, but the way she does it works really, really well. My surprise quickly turned into joy. I also admire the way in which she gave the story a very modern setting while also retaining a classic feel.

When I ordered this book, I had no idea that it was a novel in free verse. It’s a good thing that I didn’t, really, or else I might have become suspicious, and that would have been letting my preconceptions get the better of me. The free verse form fits the story, and it doesn’t keep it from flowing with ease. The only but is the fact that this means that the whole book can be read in a little over an hour. I wanted it to have lasted longer. Psyche in a Dress is a beautiful version of the myth – a sensual, painful, delicate tale that takes you through darkness but ends in a hopeful note. I leave you with a passage:
No, you took me home again
You bit me gently, not drawing blood
You fed me pomegranate seeds
I sucked the clear red coating off the sharp white pith
The taste was sweet at first
and then dry as dirt, as bone

‘I love you so much I don’t care if I die,’ I told you
So what if you didn’t say it back?
Your hair was always cold against my burning skin, cold
and smelled of smoke
Your skin was always cool and sleek
Hades, my love

Other Blog Reviews:
Once Upon a Bookshelf
The Written World


  1. Block is one of my favorite authors but somehow I missed this one. I'm so glad you posted about it as I love this myth as well. Can't wait to read it.

  2. I enjoyed this one, but didn't love it. I think I was prejudiced because I loved Julius Lesters' Cupid so much. So maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Wow, this sounds amazing. I love the myth, too. Have you read C.S. Lewis's novel, Til We Have Faces? It's another nice version. I'm definitely gonna try to bookmooch this one.

  4. I agree with Andi. This books sounds amazing. I'm going to have to get it. good thing my birthday is coming up soon!! Thanks so much for posting about it, otherwise we might have missed it. I might have to get it from the library, I'm not sure i can wait long to read it!!! I love myths, and poetry, and combined like this - irresistible.

  5. I want this one. The Spalenka cover is lovely and the story sounds that way as well.

  6. Oooh, I agree with Carl...that cover is gorgeous!

    I've yet to read anything by Block, but I did pick up a copy of The Rose and the Beast that I want to read before Once Upon a Time is over.

  7. Greer: Hope you enjoy it!

    Becky: You're really making me want to get my hands on that Julius Lester book. It sounds so good.

    Andi: No, and actually I hadn't even heard of it until I saw your comment to Bellezza about it the other day. Now I want to read it!

    Susan: I hope you manage to either get it for your birthday or find it at the library. And that you enjoy it, of course :)

    Carl: I love the cover too - beautiful with just the right amount of creepy thrown in the mix. Well, creepy for me anyway, but I have a thing with insect wings. Don't ask :P

    Debi: It's been too long since I read that one for me to remember any details of the stories, but I clearly remember enjoying them. I hope you do too!

  8. What a beautiful cover! In the little myth reader I finished last weekend was the story of Psyche and Cupid, but there wasn't a whole lot of detail. Are there other versions/books that you would recommend in addition to this?

  9. Trish, the best-known version of this myth can be found in the Roman novel The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius. I have not yet read it, but I did read the bit with the myth. You can find it online here. Then of course there are the Greek versions, but I don't know what the original source (insofar as you can use that term when it comes to myth) for that is... nor if there are any major differences other than the Greek vs Roman names for the deities. I should try and find out.

  10. Hi Nymeth

    I absolutely love Francesca Lia Block! She's one of my favorites. I haven't read this one. I wonder why? I have so many of her books too. It just really doesn't make any sense for me to miss something like this.

    Hmm...where was I when this came out?

    Anyway, thanks for your wonderful review and for also bringing it to my attention. : )


  11. Amy, I think this one is more or less recent. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  12. This sounds really cool. I enjoyed the poetry in Thomas the Rhymer and reading Beowulf and Gilgamesh so am definitely up for giving this a go at some point. I just got a new job and might break my no book buying rule when I start it in one book buying blowout to celebrate.

  13. Rhinoa: I think you totally deserve to celebrate by buying some books :D


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