Being brutally honest about books

Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The good, the annoying, and the ugly: For The Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

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Insta love, Stockholm Syndrome, and sex = love in Troy.

I'm going to pick apart this novel, so beware of spoilers for both the book and the Trojan War (which is a millenia-old myth, but hey, not everyone knows it).

The good

  • Gorgeous cover!
  • Retelling of the Trojan War that focuses on women!
  • The gods are included! Every so often there's a chapter where we get to see their pettiness, and it's so entertaining.
  • The writing style is pretty good, easy to read, and I loved the aesthetic.

The annoying

  • Spelling Chryseis as Krisayis (the author wanted to show that Greeks and Trojans had different cultures)
  • I thought this book was going to focus on several different women (my mistake) but it only focuses on Briseis and Chryseis Krisayis. These girls are essential to the plot of the Iliad but are both slaves of the Greeks, so we don't get a range of perspectives.
  • The two main characters are very similar (see above) and I often got confused about which one I was reading about.
  • Where's Thetis? You know, the mother of Achilles, a sea nymph who's a fairly important part of the Trojan War? She's mentioned by other characters but doesn't appear with the other gods. She may be a lesser god, but she's still important to the plot. It was her wedding, after all, where the Thing happened that kind of caused the Trojan War. The Thing that the title For The Most Beautiful alludes to.
  • We see Patroclus from Briseis's perspective, but he's portrayed as a kind of boring character who doesn't fight and is rumoured to be Achilles's boy toy (according to Plato, Achilles was Patroclus's boy toy (yes, the Ancient Greeks had ship wars)). He seems to be in unrequited love with Achilles. This book isn't about Patroclus, but he deserves some credit.
  • Aeneas is a son of Priam in this book???? Why? Aeneas was the son of Anchises and Venus/Aphrodite (that's right, the goddess). He's unnecessary to the book, so it's even stranger that his parentage is changed.

The ugly

  • The Trojan War lasted 10 years. In this book, it lasts less than a year, kinda similar to Troy (2004). It's such a simple canon detail, and it's ignored without explanation. (NB if you want to create a good work of fiction, don't do anything Troy did.)
  • The romances are really sudden and not developed. The romance tropes used include insta love, Stockholm Syndrome, and sex = love. Briseis's actual thought process: Wow, my fiancĂ© I've never met before is hot, I'm in love. *few months later* Achilles killed my husband so I will not sleep with him. *nek minnit* Achilles killed my family, I'm definitely never sleeping with him. Oh, he's apologised, I'm going to sleep with him now. Forgive me if I can't relate.
  • If it passes the Bechdel test, I don't remember it. A shame for a book intended to represent the forgotten women of the Trojan War.

The conclusion

This was a disappointing read, but I didn't put it down, so that's a point in its favour. 2.5 stars. If you're after a feminine (or feminist) retelling of the Trojan War that adheres to the mythology, look elsewhere.

    The summary

    Three thousand years ago a war took place that gave birth to legends - to Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, and Hector, prince of Troy. It was a war that made - and destroyed - both men, a war that shook the very foundations of the world. But what if there was more to this epic conflict? What if there was another, hidden tale of the Trojan War that had yet to be told?

    Now is that time - time for the women of Troy to tell their story.

    Thrillingly imagined and startlingly original, For the Most Beautiful reveals the true story of true for the first time. The story of Krisayis, daughter of the Trojans' High Priest, and of Briseis, princess of Pedasus, who fight to determine the fate of a city and its people in this ancient time of mischievous gods and mythic heroes.

    In a novel full of passion and revenge, loyalty and betrayal, bravery and sacrifice, Emily Hauser breathes exhilarating new life into one of the greatest legends of all - in a story that has waited millennia to be told.

    Add it on Goodreads

    Thursday, 12 March 2015

    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

    Date finished: 11 March 2015

    I'd been meaning to read this book for about a year, ever since I did a Classics internal on The Iliad vs Troy (2004) in Year 12, and I'm very glad I finally read it. Doing this study meant that I knew the story - and loved it - so I hoped that I would also love The Song of Achilles. And I did.

    I knew the basics of what would happen (I won't give away any spoilers, even though the story is thousands of years old) but this book focuses on Patroclus, a character we don't get to see much in the original story, and gives him a background, which is new and interesting. I adored seeing his relationship with Achilles develop, and there were plenty of moments that made me fangirl. There is a tonne of foreshadowing, which I kept picking up on and almost crying over. *Spoiler alert* Even though I knew what was going to happen, I kept thinking, "Maybe Patroclus won't die this time," but it happens so fast that I was not at all prepared. I don't know how to describe the plot other than epic and tragic, and I loved how the author breathed new life into characters who have been around for a hell of a long time. (That's true immortality, I think - that we still remember the names of and care about Achilles and Patroclus in the 21st Century - even though they die.)

    The writing is beautiful. It flows very well and is easy to read. It's the kind of simplistic style that anyone can read and enjoy, and I loved the description and dialogue. As the book is written in the first person, we only get one character's perspective, but it's okay because it's a character we don't know much about compared to some of the more famous characters like Achilles, or Helen of Troy (*cough* Sparta!). To retell an age-old myth, emotive language is needed to give the novel some originality, and Madeline Miller succeeds in doing this.

    When I first learnt about The Iliad and the Trojan War, my favourite characters were Achilles and Patroclus. As they are the main characters of this book, that remains the case. Their characterisation in this novel is fantastic and, well, there's no other way to say this, but I ship them so hard! They are complete opposites, hero and antihero, and their relationship really makes you think about friendship and love and fate. They treat each other as equals, even though all the other characters think of Patroclus as a disgrace, an exile, unworthy of Achilles, but they love each other for eighteen years, and in the end they don't get the happy ending we want for them, which breaks the heart.

    There are strong themes in this book that also bring out the emotions. Love and sacrifice are important, as is the concept of heroism. At one point, Achilles says, "Name one hero who was happy," and I think that quote is just the saddest thing. In this book, we know that Achilles is fated to be a hero, and he is one, but we don't know if he, or Patroclus, is ever truly happy. Like I said, this story is tragic.

    In summary: This book killed me. It broke my heart with every bit of foreshadowing, and the last few chapters just hurt my soul. And I loved every minute of it, masochist as I am. If you are a young Classics nerd like me or just a lover of male/male relationships, you must read The Song of Achilles. It will break you and you'll thank the author for doing so.
    I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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