The ancient stories are always male dominated, with women’s voices being pushed aside in favour of those “heroes” instead. Although let’s be real, my idea of what defines a hero definitely isn’t the type you find in many Greek myths. So imagine my excitement when finding out this book exists, giving another perspective – the women’s perspective – of the stories I’d read and loved before. Combining Homer’s The Iliad and The Trojan Women by Euripides, my anticipation for this book was REAL.
Probably more real than some of these guys’ “heroic” status.
Ohhh she said it.
So, the book. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s set from the women’s perspective – in particular, Briseis’ perspective – and for that very reason alone the first thing I have to say is this book is brutal. All the everyday brutalities are brought forward and laid out on a nice li’l plate in front of you. The rape, violence, slavery and permanent state of fear surrounding these women can’t be ignored when it’s actually being felt. Whereas the original, male dominated stories normalise these events and leave them as things better left unsaid (being hushed again you see), the women in this book are given back their voices and are allowed to tell their stories, all things included. So yes, it does make for a brutal read. Not too detailed, mind you. But do be wary if you’re interested in this book that these topics are mentioned fairly often.
What I found interesting though was how the new perspective sets you on a kind of ledge. It’s difficult to decide where your loyalties lie because barely any situation is a good one. You know for the war to end, one side must win. But which one? I don’t know. Because who do you support when everybody around you is – for a lack of better wording – a piece of sh*t?
But before all faith in humanity is lost, the smaller interactions between some characters just saves it all. The chats between the mothers of soldiers, nattering away about their children. The memories shared of Helen. And li’l Patroclus, who is basically a saint amongst these people, let’s be real. Something about these interactions just warmed my heart slightly, even if they weren’t necessarily touch-your-heart-wholesome content. Just the simple fact of shared memories and minute details adding a touch of something that made the story feel more real, more personal…it’s what the original stories needed. Not a book-long speech proclaiming the so-called heroic acts of one or two people. Actual emotion. Imagine that?
(Don’t worry Iliad, I still love you really)
There is…one thing I have to fault though. This book is marketed primarily as the Trojan War from the women’s perspectives. However after the first part, the book pulls you out of that perspective, puts you into third person, and tells the overarching story. The Trojan War. Which is male dominated. So you focus once again on the typical heroes – Achilles, Patroclus, Agamemnon, Hector, etc etc. You know the sort. But why? The story could’ve easily been told by the women who were there. There were plenty of them around. 97% of the time, a woman was even close enough to know what was happening when it was happening, and if not, she found out soon enough. So…why…did we have to switch back to the men?
Now don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t actually a problem with reading about men. Lord no. But when a book is marketed as being from the women’s perspective, it just seemed to undermine that idea a bit when it constantly took you away from that. It was jarring. And unnecessary. Honestly it just baffles me a little, if anything.
BUT that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book. It was a fairly quick read, with me reading it in just a couple of days – whether that be from a fast pace, my excitement to be holding it, or the rapid countdown for me to finish the book before I went on holiday, you decide. It was brutal, emotional, and added another layer to a well loved story, telling some of the stories that should’ve been told in the first place.
*Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book. This in no way affects my opinion.
Rated 4/5 stars
Are you excited for this book? Have you read any other Greek myth retellings that you’d recommend? Let me know!
Until next time,