Audiobooks, ratings, reviews (beta)

Pandora’s Jar


a woman, painted, with a spider

Author: Natalie Haynes –

Publisher: Harper Audio –

Genre: Mythology –

Overall rating: 5/5 –

Writing: 5/5 –

Duration: 9:24 h (medium; Stone Blind – 8:41 h, medium) –

Narrator: Natalie Haynes –

Narrator/performance: 5/5 –

Impressions: 5/5 –

Performance errors: 0/5 –

Complexity/reading level: 5/5 –

Audience: General


Some authors are able to read their own work with a splendid effect. I believe that Natalie Haynes stands out even among them. Both “Pandora’s Jar” and “Stone Blind” reminded me of passion and dedication shown at university lectures of extremely talented scholars (for comparison – try equally engaging lectures on Mahler). While “Pandora’s Jar” is a collection of essays, “Stone Blind” is an alternative version of the myths around the life and the quasi-death of Medusa. Yet, in both performances, there are passages where Haynes delivers monologues about the distorted, false image of women. These powerful fragments are striking at first but soon one realizes that here is the speech that should have been delivered many times over the centuries but was not, for so many reasons. We get the impression that we participate in some important event, following what is really important now. This theme is repeated and soon becomes an expected feature. It is an enjoyable experience.

Both books are great but “Pandora’s Jar” provides much more information, in a popular formula but essentially academic in content and tone. “Stone Blind” is a work of literary fiction. Both books are quite funny, though “Stone Blind” slightly more so. Both describe infuriating events, absorbing our sense of justice and fairness. They remind us that complexities of human nature and sensitivity had to be dealt with since the ancient times. They did not complicate society as an preexisting phenomenon but rather were tamed by social interactions, generation after generation. Haynes allows us to get to know myths with a particular thesis in mind but without age-related censorship. Uncensored myths should really be basic general knowledge. I agree that human sensitivities related to conscience, duty and passions should not be considered inappropriate or shameful in any serious community.

I was also happily surprised to learn that there were Greek authors who portrayed strong, uncompromising women, to be played by men and for men during Dionysia. It is also fair to add that Haynes provides enough reference material to allow the reader to immediately make their own mind. Her views are actually delivered in ways that welcome argument which is rather noble. Her audience is Everyone.

The success of these audiobooks is probably due to a number of factors. Firstly, there is the excellent performance by the Author. Secondly (but more like the first), there is the writing. Haynes mastered several ways of conveying meaning and she knows exactly what she is doing, for whom and why. The sense of control is immense. Thirdly, the aesthetic of these works is an interesting mixture of humor, hyperbole, pop-culture references and drama. Haynes knows how Antiquity influenced our culture over the centuries, including her own time and uses it without taking prisoners. It is pure, direct effect and the reader loves it (at least I did). These literary works feel like a Hollywood cartoon for adults. I enjoyed both books even though they were packed with multi-referenced information of high complexity.

Pandora’s Jar audiobook cover, a simplified graphic in three colors of a woman opening a jar
Stone Blind audiobook cover, medusa’s head in blue over a dark background

Fourthly, these audiobook covers are works of art. I am not even sure which style I like best as both are equally eye-catching and apt. There are simple enough to be great audiobook thumbnails. On top of that, the combination of color on “Stone Blind” is quite remarkable.

Cover Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash