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Helen Of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore Paperback – 7 Nov 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845952146
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845952143
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 214,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The book triumphantly reclaims Helen from some of her traducers. Hughes' portrait is as close to a real, living Helen as we are likely to get" (Financial Times)

"This book is a real tour de force. It combines astonishing erudition and knowledge of the early classical world with a wonderful easy fluency of writing" (John Julius Norwich)

"Evoking in sensuous and gorgeous prose the citadels, the palaces and the luxuries of that long-vanished world... A passionate book" (Sunday Times)

"Fantastic... I have never, ever, read anybody write so well about travels in Greece and going to explore archaeological sites" (Professor Edith Hall Woman's Hour)

"A genuinely exciting historial narrative" (Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

A major book about the life and legend of the world's 'most beautiful woman'

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bettany Hughes is one of the most able and articulate writers on ancient history we have; and this is a fine example of her work.

Bringing together her extensive research into Helen and demonstrating that the best historians are polymaths, it is possible to imagine that Hughes left out as much detail as she put into her book. What is in is very well presented and superbly written. The deep understanding of the subject is communicated by a turn of phrase and literary expression that is rarely found today, and all the more valuable when it is.

This book is a treat for greco-philes and lovers of history a-like; it pulls together fact, deduction, inference and supposition, is always credible and completely absorbing. You really should order it - Now!
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Format: Hardcover
In every biography there is an element of myth but in Helen's case the myth is the story and Hughes brilliantly uses this as the starting point for her unique exploration of the making and meaning of Helen across human history. This is a wonderfully ranging read, moving across times and continents from the bronze age civilisation that kindled the first idea of Helen to the modern world that refuses to let her die. This is certainly not, and never could be, a `standard' biography but is instead a wonderful synthesis of archaeology, mythology and history and stands as a testament to the ever-changing image of Helen that we all still carry with us.
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Format: Paperback
History/biography is a very difficult genre which all too often gets clobbered by either the Scylla of turgid style, overly dense footnotes and too much detail or the Charybdis of superficiality and crowd-pleasing. Hughes' 'Helen' brilliantly steers herself past both with a witty, engaging and passionate style and ample, but not excess, detail to back up her ideas.

The book is a dazzling exploration of Bronze Age history and, particularly, the role of women in it which is threaded on a figure who is universally known and relevant today. The trick of imagining and pursuing Helen as a real person gives a cogency, life and focus to a field which might otherwise have little or no appeal to a modern non-academic audience. Furthermore, combining that history with an analysis of how views of Helen have changed and developed over time gives an essential cultural context for the whole exercise. All-in-all, easily one of the best history books I have ever read.
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Format: Paperback
I think some of the reviews of this book are rather harsh, probably owing to snobbery over the author's TV work and colourful (ie, not dusty) writing style.

This book is a brave and highly readable attempt to explore the many manifestations of Helen. Hughes certainly does not jump erratically but sets out each chapter clearly, fulfilling her intentions nicely. She would have failed if she stuck to merely the classical Helen, Medieval Helen, prehistoric Helen, or whichever.

Hughes has clearly done plenty of research. Not only is ancient history her specialism, but more importantly she has travelled extensively in researching her passion for the ancient world. The book is full of fascinating anecdotes about her journeys and her trips to the museums and galleries of the world. Her enthusiasm shines through on every page.

The thing that I liked best about this book was the evocative way that Hughes brings the Mycenaean world to life: the sights, smells and sounds. She paints a tantalising picture of how life might have been for a high-born Mycenaean woman.

Worth reading for its insights and simply because it is entertaining.
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Format: Hardcover
Helen is that rare thing - a female character who travels through three millennia of human history. Hughes is the first author brave enough to take her on. This book is brilliantly researched and beautifully written. The bite-size chapters make it a perfect volume to pick up anywhere - on the train, at the beach, in your favourite armchair. The scholarship and pages of flawless footnotes assure you you are in the hands of a writer who knows precisely what she is doing. The narrative is fast-paced and the arguments are original and fascinating. Hughes deals with the tricky question of why it is that men love to love, and love to hate `the perfectly beautiful' Helen. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Bettany builds her view of Helen from various sources. Bettany is quit a good writer and so compelling that it is here Helen(s) that I have come to see as the real one(s).

The book has notes, lots of notes. We get color pictures and graphs. What's this even a timeline? Even a description of abbreviations. Related other works.
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Format: Hardcover
The first half of this book is very enjoyable. Bettany Hughes does quite a good job in following in the footsteps of Michael Wood, but her slant is different. This is really an exercise in mythoography; how could it be otherwise with such scant archaeological remains to traipse around. She builds up a good, convincing picture (case?) by virtue of pulling all the strands together. (I'd have liked more pictures, but perhaps I'm supposed to buy the DVD to go with it). And in some ways it's quite a revealing picture, granting Helen high status and power, not only in Mycenean times, but down the ages since. In some ways this is familiar feminist mythological territory, and Hughes does quite a good job of subtly implying what a mysogynist lot western European society has been ever since Helen's time. I do think the book is a touch over-written, though. The incantatory celebrations of Helen that come round at the end of chapters get a bit tedious; we do feel we've got the point already about half-way through. That said, this is a good revisionist approach and does much to re-energise our concepts of this character from the ancient past.
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