Review: The Song of Troy

Title: The Song of Troy
Author: Colleen McCullough
Publication: 1999 by Orion Books Ltd.
Format: Paperback

Book Synopsis

As urgent and passionate as if told for the first time, the narrative is passed from one character to another: Priam, King of Troy, doomed to make the wrong decisions for the right reasons; the Greek princess Helen, a self-indulgent beauty who deserts her boring husband for the sake of an equally self-indulgent beauty, the Trojan prince Paris; the haunted fighting machine, Achilles; the heroically noble Hektor; the subtle and brilliant Odysseus; Agmemnon, King of Kings, who consents to the unspeakable in order to launch his thousand ships, and thus incurs the enmity of his terrifying wife, Klytemnestra. But where does human folly end? And where does the pitiless retribution of the Gods begin? The characters dazzle, swinging our sympathies from Greece to Troy and back again as each of them moves inexorably towards a fate even the Gods cannot avert.

What I Thought About It . . .
I must confess that I was not just a little wary of picking up another book by Colleen McCullough after my experience with The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. This was a book that started out well enough but suffered such a plummet after the middle of the story that it gives me antagonisms just thinking about it. I’m not much of a fan of Pride and Prejudice, but Jane Austen deserved a much better sequel. Still I have been overcome with the need to read material about the Trojan War so I gave in and requested The Song of Troy from my library.

I found this book to be interesting. Each chapter is narrated by a different individual, though some return for multiple chapters. I liked this approach because we are able to see the story from multiple perspectives as McCullough gives her own spin on the classic tale. I think in some cases this can be a good thing if you give fresh perspective on a character. Still I don’t particularly like how she’s portrayed some of the characters in this story at times. Such as Helen, for example. I suppose I was hoping for something more than a sex kitten. Still it seems the only sympathy-inducing portrayal of Achilles that I’ve come across so far and for that I give it props. And yet I still don’t see how all the women love him . . . However, the gods do not make such an appearance in the conflict as they do in The Iliad, which made for an interesting tale because it showed that men were responsible for their fortunes.

The writing at times was hit and miss. Sometimes I would read with a fervor to go on and discover what happens, despite the fact that we all know how this story ends. And then there were times where I felt that urge to skip pages in order to just get on with it. So perhaps it’s possible that the book was far too long?

Overall I wanted to like this book better than I did, but it did raise my opinion of Colleen McCullough as an author a little bit.



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