This is the sequel to The Girl from Ithaca and, rather appropriately, I read it just before visiting Mycenae and Sparta. It continues the tale of Neomene, the fictitious (fictitious as in not appearing in the legends) sister of Odysseus, amongst the Greeks outside Troy, and takes the story up to the fall of Troy. Incidentally, one thing I have never understood is why the horse is always referred to as “a Trojan horse”. It was a Greek horse! Anyway, that’s beside the point, LOL.
Towards the end of the book, Neomene is taken prisoner by the Trojans, but, as the sister of Odysseus, she isn’t mistreated, and instead is handed over to Helen as a lady-in-waiting, until the Greeks come and she’s rescued. So we get several conversations between Neomene and Helen, in which Helen says that everything is the fault of the gods, who made her fall in love with Paris.
That’s the whole thing about ancient Greek legends – the idea that everything is predestined. It’s quite hard to get your head round. Come what may, Troy is going to fall, Hector is going to be killed and Achilles is going to be killed. And no-one will believe poor Cassandra … I keep being earwormed by the Abba song every time I think about her! There are some interesting comments about it in The Thorn Birds – it’s not a book which people probably associate with ancient Greece, but Colleen McCullough wrote brilliantly about the ideas of Greek legends, in which everything’s predestined, and, by contrast, the idea of free will. I suppose the 17th century Puritans went back to the idea of predestination – and that’s something else I don’t really get … what’s the point of making a huge fuss over people playing football on a Sunday or eating mince pies at Christmas if everyone’s fate is predestined anyway?
I’ve now gone completely off the point! There isn’t actually that much talk in this book about the gods and predestination: we see the Greeks making decisions and that just comes across as … well, making decisions. It does all work very well: the legends and the story of this invented character are all woven together, and we see snippets of normal life in the Greek camp, particularly the lives of women and children, which Homer and those who write academic studies of the Iliad certainly don’t show us. I was lucky enough to get this book, as I was with the first book in the series, for free, and I’m now looking forward to reading the next one … which I assume will move from the Iliad to the Odyssey and show us the Ithacans’ journey home.
What amazing stories the ancient Greek legends are! Still going strong after all these centuries. In the age of technology, what term is used to describe a nasty computer virus which tricks you into installing it? Trojan horse – the term from the legends of a war thought to’ve taken place in 12th or 13th century BC. How incredible is it that those legends are still such a big part of the culture of the Western world and beyond after all that time? OK, that’s rather more to do with Homer, and for that matter Virgil, than Cherry Gregory, LOL, but this is a very readable book, and highly recommended.