Review: Helen of Troy by Margaret George

Helen of Troy by Margaret George

3 out of 5 stars

I┬álike to think that I’m a fast reader. Generally the speed at which I read a book – assuming I have the time – reflects how much I’m enjoying it. And although I did enjoy this book, it was such a slow read. I have no idea why, but it just seemed to drag, even though the content was interesting. I love the Iliad and the whole story of the Trojan War, but this book didn’t grip me as much as I thought it would.

The pacing of the book was slow and the passage of time was very unclear for the majority of it. Timing also seemed rather erratic – the chapters in Sparta before Helen met Paris took forever, whereas the actual events at Troy – that were supposed to last ten years – just rushed by. I was unsure for most of the book how much time had passed. For example, Achilles and his son confused me – I got the impression that when the war began, Achilles was 16 or 17, of a similar age to Paris. He dies in the ninth year of the war, I believe, before the arrival of Philoctetes which ultimately leads to the downfall of Troy, fulfilling one of the final prophecies. This would make him 25 or 26 when he died, yet he has a 15 year old son? I know these events are recorded in many ancient texts and sources, and it is not something of George’s invention, but more clarification on the timeframe would make things easier to follow.

Helen was quite a dull narrator too. I liked the way George managed to actually get the battles into the story, even though Helen couldn’t actually see them, it meant that there was actually some action rather than just narrative. I didn’t really feel anything for her though, and Paris just irritated me – so naive and selfish, although I suppose that is generally how he is always represented. The character with the most depth was actually Menelaus, since we saw several sides of his character.

I have no idea why it took me so long to read. If you’re interested in Troy, I would recommend it though.

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