BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘A Thousand Ships’ by Nathalie Haynes

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, the host of the 80+ episodes of Book Stew, a 30-minute video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, featuring authors, playwrights, voice artists, and journalists.

‘A Thousand Ships’ by Nathalie Haynes

If you loved the Trojan War novels “Circe” and “Song of Achilles,” if you are a connoisseur of Greek myths — here’s your next must-read.

This historical novel, so wry and humorous with its modern take on the imagined lives of the ancients, gets under the skin of the epics of Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, and others, to finally allow the women to tell their own tales.

There’s scarcely one who lived through the Trojan War who is left out (Circe had her own novel) — the major figures of Clytemnestra, Penelope, Hecuba, Helen, Cassandra, and Andromache, and the minor ones — Iphigeneia, the Amazon Penthesilea, Briseis and Chryseis, Laodamia, and Polyxena — are all given their voices back.

And then there’s deities — the biggies Gaia, Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, and the Furies, and the minor goddesses, nymphs, and  girlfriends of Zeus — Thetis, Themis, Oenone, Eris, and Homer’s muse, Calliope, who gets pretty fed up with him.

There’s a remarkable passage where Mother Earth, Gaia, complains to Zeus that the earth is overpopulated, and they strategize together about the easiest way to bring about a reduction of humans — hello, Helen of Troy!

And Penelope’s unsent letters to her wandering husband Odysseus, indicating her displeasure at his wanderings could be a comic novel onto themselves (“One excuse after another. You met a monster. You met a witch. Cannibals broke your ships. A whirlpool ate your friends.”)

The author is a heroic classicist who brings true immortality to those previously given short shrift.

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