Friday, January 03, 2014

372 (2013 #56). Helen of Troy

by Margaret George

Another of Margaret George's lengthy works of fiction (this one was 611 pages), this time she tackles a mythological character rather than a real person.  Hence, I can't really classify it as historical fiction, although it's very similar in style to the two other books I've read by George (both historical fiction / biographical novels).

There are many variations in the retellings of Helen's story; thus George can pick and choose what she wants to include.  Since this is mythology, there are no "facts" to worry about.  For example, George completely leaves out Helen's abduction by Theseus in her youth.  She is also deliberately vague on whether or not Zeus is Helen's father.  These choices by the author humanize Helen and make her seem like a rather normal (but beautiful) woman.

Helen tells her own story in first person, and has an inconsistent gift of foresight.  This comes in handy, for at times George uses dreams or vision sequences to bring in parts of the tale of which Helen would otherwise have no knowledge.

Much of the book is taken up with long passages about the battles and siege of Troy.  This part got rather repetitious and could have been shortened, in my opinion.  It's hard enough to slog through the book with most of the characters being rather unlikeable.  Helen is rather naive, expressing surprise at the mess she has stirred up by running away with Paris - well, what did you expect?  Paris is not compelling - Helen's being under a spell of Aphrodite is the only logical explanation for her continuing attraction to this pretty boy.

This book made me want to read up on the Helen myths and learn more about their variations.  However, I didn't like this book as much as George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII or The Memoirs of Cleopatra.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.  I actually finished this book on New Year's Day 2014, but I'm including it in my 2013 count since I read the vast majority of the book in that year.]

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