Helen of Troy by Margaret George
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Origination: Purchased at local bookstore
Remember your college Greek mythology classes? If your memory is a little fuzzy, it will all come flooding back to you when you read Margaret George's Helen of Troy. Ms. George recreates the story from Helen's point of view and beginning with Helen's childhood, she paints a fairly vivid picture of Helen's family, her home of Sparta, and the circumstances that led to her sad marriage to Menelaus. When Paris enters the picture, as I'm sure you remember, it's pretty much game-over and the beautiful Helen is spirited off to Troy, leading to the infamous Trojan War.
Peripheral characters make the novel quite enjoyable: Priam, Agamemnon, Cytemnestra, Odysseus and Hector, amongst others, all make a good showing and are quite developed, character-wise, for a novel this length. (I'm sure 638 pages seems like a lot, but for the legend this encompasses, Ms. George had to condense quite a bit here.)
Now for my reaction: I never quite developed any sympathy for Helen and Paris. Their utter selfishness came across as irritating, as opposed to uncontrollable fate. I continually felt the need to give Helen a slap and tell her to "buck up." Paris came across as immature - not a man to fall in love with, but a boy who feels entitled to whatever he wants, at any cost. The supporting cast is delightful, however, and made the story worth a read.
This isn't a so-called "heavy read" by any means. It rather strikes me as something that might be classified as a summer beach novel. Fun, but not serious historical fiction. For those of us who are certifiably obsessed with historical fiction, this novel is a nice break from 16th and 17th Century England and if you can find a good copy at a used book store, it's worth the purchase.
Title: Helen of Troy
Author: Margaret George
ISBN: 978-0-14-303899-3 (pbk.)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: 2006