Helen of Troy

It’s been awhile since I wrote up a book review. That is not indicative of a lack of reading, just a lack of writing. Ironic, to be sure, in this month of NaBloWriMo (National Blog Writing Month). Actually NaBloWriMo is why I’ve been reading and not writing. Too many talented bloggers have been putting up at least one post a day for 2 weeks. How can I possibly keep up?

But, here I am, back on the wagon. I read the most recent of Margaret George’s books, Helen of Troy, over a month ago.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit up front that I am a huge fan of Margaret George. This is probably in part due to my fascination with historical novels. Some of George’s past works include The Autobiography of Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, and The Memoirs of Cleopatra. Each of George’s historical novels takes the form of an autobiography or memoir and offers an interesting insight into the chosen character’s motivations and inner thoughts. In that respect they are fairly compelling for a historian like myself. So this was the mindset with which I approached Helen of Troy.

During the course of my Latin studies I have read many different versions of the story of the battle of Troy and therefore had a certain familiarity with the subject matter. What I wasn’t expecting was the unremitting “woman power” perspective of the novel. Let em digress for a moment.

One of my favorite books when I was younger was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, hugely shocking I know, what with my fascination with Arthurian legends. Since I loved Mists of Avalon so much I read through a few of her other books. Was I ever disappointed. I read two of her other Avalon books and one about Troy. Blah blah blah. I was quite unimpressed. It felt to me that Bradley’s only objective throughout those books was to expound on her feminism, which in and of itself isn’t bad, it’s just boring.

I had similar feelings about Helen of Troy, perhaps it was because I hoped for and expected so much from the book. I mean is it ever possible for things (or people for that matter) to live up to expectations? Is it even fair to try to compare the expectation with the reality? Probably not. I understand that George’s goal in writing her novel was the bring a hitherto undefined personality to the infamous Helen of Troy, but I think I was hoping for a story more focused on the actual battle between the Greeks and Trojans. Perhaps from the start I was biased against the book because I have never appreciated the story of the lovers Helen and Paris. I have never understood why their relationship should ever be enviable. I hoped that Helen of Troy might bring a sense of compassion and allow me to appreciate a willingness to destroy the world for love. It did not. I felt like I left the book with no greter understanding of the psyches of the two main characters; I was still left with the idea that both were unfailingly selfish.

With those caveats about my biases regarding the book, I will add one final comment. As usual, Margaret’s George’s writing style was flawless. She managed to create a believable setting for this classical tale; her descriptions of Illium were beautiful and evocative and her portrayal of characters like Hector and Achilles fit nearly perfectly with my personal interpretations from various other sources.

In closing, yes, I enjoyed the book, but it was not what I had hoped for.

Next Up : I’m currently reading Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert on the recommendation of many friends and bloggers, however, I will be putting it aside to reread the series His Dark Materials before the release of a New Line Cinema version of the first of the trilogy. I hugely enjoyed the Pullman books when I read them years ago and I hope to get myself wrapped back up in that world next week. For those of you who have read Pullman’s books, you can go to GoldenCompassMovie.com to find out what type of daemon you have. Mine is an Oscelot named Erasmus.

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~ by CableGirl on Wednesday, November 14, 2007.

2 Responses to “Helen of Troy”

  1. Memoirs of Cleopatra sounds interesting…

    btw I am currently reading The Catcher in the rye

  2. I’m not letting DS see The Golden Compass until he reads the series because I know he’ll love the series. He didn’t want to read them when he was younger because he knew they were dark, but now he’s ready. Thanks for the review. And LOL, Rambler, my DS just finished Catcher!

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