Review: The Return from Troy

TITLE: The Return from Troy
AUTHOR: Lindsay Clarke
PUBLICATION: 2006 by HarperCollins
FORMAT: Paperback


In this sequel to The War at Troy, the trademark lyricism, lucidity, and mythic power is present in this novel that offers a timely interpretation of one of the world’s great stories. After ten years of war, Troy has fallen, yet the gods have turned against the victorious Argives—and their ordeals have only just begun. Agamemnon sails back to Mycenae, where Clytaemnestra has nursed a vengeful fury over his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenaia. Meanwhile, Menelaus must decide the fate of Helen, over whose incomparable beauty the war was fought. Odysseus, traumatized by the slaughter his own ingenuity unleashed, no longer believes himself fit to return to his wife and son. Driven both by tempests and torment, he embarks on a voyage that will take him to the margins of the world and deep into the shadows of his own heart.


This is the sequel to The War at Troy and if you’ve read my review of it you are aware that I enjoy that novel immensely. I’ve had the sequel for some time now, but I kept putting off reading it. However, I find February to be a difficult month to read anything to completion. However, I know how much I fancied Clarke’s prose and a book that features a heavy dose of Odysseus? How could I resist?

I found it easy to be lost in this book. Clarke continues to use that lyrical prose that I enjoyed so much from The War at Troy. At least for the first half of the novel. It seems that once Agamemnon dies the story kind of loses interest for me. Not that I have any great love for the King of Men (I couldn’t wait to see the man die to be honest), but the narrative just doesn’t seem to hold the steam that it had earlier. I think the fact that the bard of Ithaca also becomes more of a distinct character and not just an omnipotent narrator may have something to do with it. It brings to mind the question of how he could possibly know all of the thoughts that were racing through everyone’s heads and also of the most intimate scenes. In The War at Troy nine years of the greatest war the world had ever seen was summed up in the course of a page or two. So that left the long and drawn out narrative of Odysseus’ time spent with the Lotus Eaters and then Circe feel like it took ages to get through. I expected time spent with Calypso to be equally grueling, but it maintained the earlier simplicity of a brief overview.

Odysseus spends a good portion of this story haunted by the carnage that his brilliant mind unleashed at Troy. Tormented by the ghost of Priam’s daughter Polyxena whose murder he witnessed and failed to stop on the grave of Achilles, he roams to find atonement before returning to his island. It was these portions that held my interest best in the latter half. Essentially The Return from Troy is a quest for self discovery that Odysseus undergoes to determine if he is truly the monster who ensured the destruction of Troy and unfit for civilized company or he can find the healing he needs

Overall I would say that I did like this sequel, but it wasn’t quite as good as its predecessor. I think I would just rather read The Odyssey to be honest.



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