This was never the story of one woman, or two.
It was the story of them all…
In the middle of the night, Creusa wakes to find her beloved city engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over. Troy has fallen.
From the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks, to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf, to Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, to the three goddesses whose feud started it all, these are the stories of the women embroiled in the legendary war.
Powerfully told from an all-female perspective, in A Thousand Ships, Natalie Haynes puts the women, girls and goddesses at the centre of the story.
Last year I had my introduction to Greek Retellings via The Silence of the Girls, I really enjoyed that book and you can read my review here. Howevery I did find myself troubled by the romantisication of the relationship between Achilles and Bresis. That said as an introduction to Greek Mythology and Legends it was an engaging and highly accessible read.
A Thousand Ships was undeniably from the female perspective and was also an engaging and informative read that I enjoyed a lot. More like many short stories introducing the many women involved in the Trojan War – those left behind bringing up children alone for many years, those captured and made to be slaves, those warriors – the Amazons. The stories are all told in the women’s voices and while the majority are told through a single, devoted chapter, The Trojan Women and letters from Penelope to Odysseus were themes throughout the book.
Very thought provoking in considering the women, who are so often unseen and unheard, except in terms of their beauty and their beguile. The position of the women was tenuous, reliant on the men in their lives for status and wealth and indeed safety, this was particularly noticable for Penelope who had an extended wait for Odysseus and with him presumed dead there were many suitors, keen to take his place in the royal household by marrying his queen.
Confession time now, I am honestly not very familiar with these stories, I don’t recall learning about Greek myths and legends in school and I am absolutely enthralled by them. I think this book is very strong in terms of bringing the women to the fore and giving them a voice, but the stories are told well, a list of characters at the start proved helpful as a who’s who and the stroies were great stroies. Which is why we remain fascinated by them and these retellings are so popular.
I want to reiterate again how much I liked this book, a deserved entry on the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist and a book that along with the aforementioned The Silence of the Girls has continued to whet my appetite for more reading in this genre of historical fiction.
Have you read this book? Next on my list is Song of Achilles, then Circe I think, but please do give me your recommendations in the comments below.
About the Author
Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster. She is the author of The Amber Fury, which was shortlisted for the McIlvanney, The Children of Jocasta, a feminist retelling of the Oedipus and Antigone stories; and a non-fiction book about Ancient History, The Ancient Guide to Modern Life. She has written and presented four series of the BBC Radio 4 show, Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics. In 2015, she was awarded the Classical Association Prize for her work in bringing Classics to a wider audience. A Thousand Ships is her third novel.