Some familiar subjects--especially historical ones such as the sacking of Troy--are these days rarely tackled for fear of the inevitable repetition of other works involved and potential accusations of unoriginality on the author's part. So what more could another retelling of this well-trodden tale of Ancient Greece, interfering gods, vulnerable mortals, war, bloodshed and a wooden horse contribute to the canon of literature worth reading?
Well, in the case of Troy by Adèle Geras, quite a lot, actually.
And it is, perhaps, because Geras is such a veteran of literature worth reading that she has managed this feat in a manner so refreshingly original and consummately believable. Geras approaches the stuff of legend in much the way that Kevin Crossley-Holland does in his book of Arthur, The Seeing Stone, by telling a big story in short chapters through the eyes of smaller people--in this case, principally, two young sisters in the royal households of Troy called Xanthe and Marpessa. As love triangles unfold, as the war rages to its well-known climax and blood runs at its thickest, our expert witnesses find themselves at the heart of incredible events--and in turn breathe life into traditional themes and ancient times that might otherwise have been the preserve of academics and scholars of Homer.
A frivolous and deliberate act by Aphrodite, the goddess of love, causes Xanthe and Marpessa to both fall in love with the same man--a wounded soldier called Alastor who arrives, writhing in pain, into the Blood Room where Xanthe nurses the slain. While the siblings clash and blame it all on the gods, other hearts are hurting too. Iason, stable boy to Hector, the son of Priam, has loved Xanthe since childhood. In turn, Polyxena, the granddaughter of Priam's singer, is in love with Iason. Alongside these cruel intertwined romances, some leading to tragedy and bitterness, the grim brutality of the climax to the Trojan War unfolds.
Troy is weighty in more ways than one. Yes, people are burnt to death, men slaughtered and women enslaved--but there are humorous crones and gossiping washerwomen too. Few punches are pulled here. But this is war, and anything less would be misleading. The writing is honest and skilfully rounded, the characters distinct and authentic. The setting is ancient, but the underlying messages are thoroughly modern.
Deservedly shortlisted for the Whitbread Children's Book Prize, Troyis a must-read novel by a must-read novelist. (Age 11+). --John McLay
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.