A Year In Books.

Helen of Troy

Last week, I read Helen of Troy by Margaret George. Those of you who follow my Year In Books every Monday, will know I’ve read two other of Margaret George’s historical fiction novels so far this year and loved both of them. So, it came a quite a surprise to me that I didn’t like this book at all. No joke. I had a hard time even getting through it and, in fact, stopped reading it for a few days and then had to force myself to finish it.

Now, let me clear, it really had nothing to do with the quality of George’s writing, she always writes brilliantly, but rather, I think it was the story in general. I mean, I loved reading about the Trojan War in the Illiad and the Odyssey , but I have to say, I’ve never really had a keen interest in Helen as a person. So, I went into this novel hoping that it would make me see the Trojan war and Helen differently. Instead, it just made me hate all the characters involved. For real. There was not one character in this book that I liked, and you kind of need at least one character you don’t loathe in order to like a book, right?

I mean, Helen was unimaginably selfish, Paris was immature, Menelaus was stone-cold, and everyone else had some sort of foible I couldn’t get over as well. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was this week, but all in all, I just didn’t like this book. And it was kind of a major disappointment. I didn’t feel any emotional connection to any of the characters except for when Helen says goodbye to the daughter she is abandoning in favor of Paris- then I felt really badly for her daughter Hermione and really unreasonably angry with Helen. Other than that, it just didn’t interest me at all. I hate saying that because I think the world of Margaret George but for me, this time, it just didn’t happen.

What about you guys? I need some good reading suggestions.

18 thoughts on “A Year In Books.

  1. Sounds to me like she got the characters pretty spot on. After all The Illiad is just a bunch of manly men being manly and faint-hearted women being faint hearted. It all leaves a sour taste in my mouth really. The Odyssey is the greater work – in my humble opinion – but, again, it hardly paints women in a favourable light. Just like most of our patriarchal history.

    Two books you may be interested in: Embracing The Wide Sky by Daniel Tammet – Mr. Tammet is an autistic man with an incredible affinity for numbers (he once recited Pi to something like the 12000th decimal before giving up because he was exhausted). The books is something of a biography but it gives an incredible insight into the working of the human brain and his incredible gift. Given your past as an educator this may interest you.

    The second book may be more interesting, given the choices you’ve made so far this year, and that is Leaning Towards Infinity by Sue Wolfe. This is an amazing book about a mathematically gifted woman and her relationship with her mother and general struggles to be recognised when less talented men are receiving all the glory. Heartfelt and beautifully written.

    Oh, and if you haven’t done so yet, grab something by Margaret Atwood – Cats Eye and Oryx and Crake are both brilliant books.

    Enjoying your blog!

    1. Thanks for the recommendations! They sound awesome and I’m adding them to the queue. And you’re right about the female characters in The Odyssey and The Illiad- they are hardly enough to build strong female characters around.

  2. “The Book Thief” is the best book I’ve read of the year, hands down, and probably one of the best, ever. I highly recommend it. Other than that–mine!
    It’s very sad, but hey, had to at least *suggest* it! 🙂

  3. I don’t think I have liked any story of Troy, so this would have been a tough sell for me as well. Helen was always (to me) a very selfish character in anything I have read (or very minor) and would have hoped the same as you. Reminds me somewhat of the twilight saga, where I was perpetually hopeful that Bella would just get eaten. So disappointing.

    I read instructional books this week on the art of Kumihimo (Japanese Braid technique) and found it very interesting (the Samurai use this technique to plate armor!! and horses!) and cool to do. I made two bracelets for my littles and they greatly enjoyed the trinkets 🙂

  4. I’ve been surprised to be enjoying The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. At times the work becomes a bit travelogue-y, but the story itself has been very compelling. I haven’t quite made it to the end, but Leif read the book and gave it his endorsement, which is no meager thing in my estimation, so I have confidence it will stay strong to the end.

    And if all else fails, read some Jane Austen, again, and again, and again.

      1. Ahh. Persuasion. An often overlooked gem. The movie with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds is very good, if you like movie versions of books.

        Another overlooked Jane Austen gem is the completed version of Sandition by Jane Austen and “another lady.” Copyright 1975 by Marie Dobbs and published by Scribner Paperback Fiction. Barnes and Noble was selling it on the shelf a few years ago, and while most “fan fiction” is a bit lame, I personally felt this was an extremely admirable work and well worth the read for Jane-ites and Jane Austen newbies alike.

  5. I’ve been reading a ’77 sci-fi novel called Lucifer’s Hammer, where a comet hits the Earth. Basically it’s like Deep Impact, but with less Elijah Wood and more comet.

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