A Thousand Ships

A bit of a surprise I had to admit – I enjoyed it more than I expected. I heard many good things about it obviously. It’s one of the Women’s Prize Shortlist. But I’m now so wary of the media buzz I don’t believe a word of it anymore.

A Thousand Ships is a retelling of the Trojan War and the aftermath from an all-female perspective. I knew nothing about the Trojan War apart from the Horse and I had never read anything about Greek gods and their complicated family relationship. But throughout the book I kept thinking ‘hey I vaguely know this!’ which was quite fun. For example, the three goddesses and the golden apple, the wandering of Odysseus, the cursed prophetess.

It’s an all female cast with quite a lot of characters, human as well as Greek goddess. The author managed to keep me from mixing them all up (while I was reading it at least), even with their Trojan-looking names. A few of them stood out more than others: Penelope’s letters to her wandering husband had a great sense of humour which barely covered the weariness and resignedness during her decade of waiting; the ‘little queen’ who feverishly lived and died for the love of her ‘bronze’ husband; the bride who was sacrificed by her father, and her mother who took revenge; Cassandra who was heard but never believed. It’s an achievement. I feel like this should be a given. If you decide to have a big cast, each character sharing a similar weight of importance in the book, you’d better have the skill to present them distinctively to the readers. Otherwise what’s the point. But I have found that it’s not always a given.

I have not much else to say about it. It’s entertaining but I won’t be going around forcing everyone to read it. It might mean more to readers who are familiar with Greek mythology. They’ll be able to tell if this is a good retelling or not. There are so many books retelling Greek mythology in recent years. I wonder why that is?

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