A Thousand Ships

By Natalie Haynes

Remember when we had to read the Iliad and/or the Odyssey in school?

Well, dust off what you remember and pick up this fresh take on an old story. Written from the perspectives of almost every female character mentioned in the story, this novel paints a slightly different portrait than that of Homer. Of course, Homer would have been most concerned with the men, the “heroes” of the story. That was about right for the time period in which he composed. He undoubtedly “wrote” his accounts of the Trojan war by way of the oral tradition around 750 B.C. The poetry was likely communicated via song for many years until it was finally written down.

This new account delves into the women and the roles they played in the war. It surmises how the events of the war affected them and possibly motivated them to action. Their emotions and griefs and triumphs are finally acknowledged here. A Thousand Ships interprets the actions of the so-called heroes in terms of how they must have been perceived by the women, wives, sisters, and daughters.

Obviously, this is fiction. And the Trojan war has only been described mythologically, with actions and causes explained by the interference of gods and goddesses. However, in 1870, the physical location of the Troy was excavated. There is a layer which was uncovered that shows destruction of the city by fire in approximately 1180 B.C. and some say this destruction of the city may have inspired the stories which cropped up in Homer’s time since the ruins would have still been visible during his lifetime. Interesting, right?

Whatever its roots, the story of the Trojan War is one of the greatest ever told and the previously untold stories of the women reveal thoughts about the face that launched A Thousand Ships. Interestingly, that face (Helen) remains just that – only a face, beautiful though it may have been. The author chose not to give this one woman a voice, but instead, gives voice to all the others. I love this. So intriguing! Read it. Don’t worry, it’s written in prose. You can snag a copy here.

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