Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Book Review: Helen of Troy.

I’d always loved Greek mythology and had a particular interest in the Gods and Goddesses as a child. I was forever watching repeats of Hercules and Xena: The Warrior Princess…along with cheesy, but great films with humorous special effects such as Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad. Then of course, big budget ‘epic’ films such as Gladiator, The Last Samurai, King Arthur, Troy and 300 further peeked my interest in historical events in both film and novels.

After watching the film Troy (2004), I became quite curious about Helen, who was known as ‘the most beautiful woman’ and perceived as being the cause of the Trojan War. I highly doubt this is how it happened, but I do like how the story has been romanticised to make us believe that she was – which in turn makes her seem more interesting. If you don’t know the story of the Trojan War, you can read this Wikipedia article.My impression of Helen has always been indifferent even though I’ve watched the character in several television dramas and in 'Troy', to which I was incredibly disappointed with Diane Kruger’s performance. I personally don't even imagine Helen as being blonde, I like to think of her as a pale skinned, freckled redhead... I feel that the 'most beautiful woman' should have an eye-catching look and distinctive features. Helen has just always been…boring.

Anyway, when I had noticed Amazon recommending me a novel about her, by Margaret George, I seized the chance to possibly learn a bit more about her in a different format. I thought it’d take me forever to finish the book as it’s twice the size of other books I read, but it was so brilliantly written, I skimmed right through it. I was so much more enlightened about Helen after finishing it, and she finally had a personality to her name. I saw her as quite spoilt, and slightly annoying. Although at times, she came across as almost… heroic. There were times when I liked her and times when I didn’t, which is probably why I finished it quite quickly as I was constantly reaching out for the parts where I would like her.I particularly enjoyed reading about her life as a child and finding out the story of her birth which was actually something I didn’t know! Her mother Leda was impregnated by Zeus, who was disguised as a swan…Leda then had an egg, to which Helen came out of. I think stories like these are just the things that make me enjoy reading mythology so much more!!!
I would recommend this book, but not just to learn more about Helen, but also because other key characters are exposed to the reader, making you want to learn about them too. I also really liked Margaret George's style of writing which was clear and concise... I'd definitely look into buying her other novels.
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