Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy by Margaret George

Genre: Historical-fiction, Romance, Adult, DNF

Published: 2007 by Pan Publishing

The Plot

Daughter of a god, wife of a king, prize of antiquitys bloodiest war, Helen of Troy has inspired artists for millennia. Now Margaret George, the highly acclaimed bestselling historical novelist, has turned her intelligent, perceptive eye to the myth that is Helen of Troy.

Margaret George breathes new life into the great Homeric tale by having Helen narrate her own story. Through her eyes and in her voice, we experience the young Helens discovery of her divine origin and her terrifying beauty. While hardly more than a girl, Helen married the remote Spartan king Menelaus and bore him a daughter. By the age of twenty, the worlds most beautiful woman was resigned to a passionless marriage until she encountered the handsome Trojan prince Paris. And once the lovers flee to Troy, war, murder, and tragedy become inevitable.

In Helen of Troy, Margaret George has captured a timeless legend in a mesmerizing tale of a woman whose life was destined to create strife and destroy civilizations.

The Review

Before we begin you may have noted I marked this book at DNF, but it stands at a crazy 700 pages and I have yet to finish such an epically long book. I am cursed, cursed I tell you. So I was trying to break it with this book and I made it past 400 pages. Unfortunately, Christmas, exams and lots of other things got in the way and I ran out of steam as well as renewal times for a library loaned book. So I can’t tell you whether I didn’t finish this one because I didn’t enjoy it because I did or if I’m lazy with big books or I just seem to have this fear of their sheer size and I cannot fathom how to finish such a book. Still, I must say Helen of Troy is not a book to dismiss just because I did not finish it.

Honestly, I don’t read that much historical-fiction for an avid history lover. I soak up all the facts and the figures and just revel in the world of the past, but I’m always a little wary of historical fiction and I just couldn’t tell you why… Maybe because I fear it will not capture the world or I just won’t get honest facts. However, Helen of Troy is about a world that may or may not have existed.  It’s about a woman who has been part of Greek legends for centuries and who is the claimed daughter of a God. So much of this ‘historical-fiction’ relies on Fantasy. There is evidence today that the sight of Troy that can be found in northwest Turkey in a place called Anatolia. Still, this is not certified exactly, which is what makes this story so fascinating and gives George a huge artistic license.

I enjoyed how George slowly drew us into the world of Greece and Sparta and Troy. I loved how she revealed the characters slowly and built upon them giving them fleshed out foundations and characteristics that made them real. I adored how the developed and changed over the storyline and they evoked anger and sadness and frustration in me. Truly, the characters of Helen and Menelaus particularly came to life. Honestly I felt like Paris is a naive, silly boy who is too weak to truly fight and understand the world and this is where I began to abhor Helen for her decisions.

I am sure you all know the story of Helen of Troy in how she ran away with Paris, the Trojan prince which led to the Spartans waging war on her. George takes lots of time to unravel the story in Sparta and Helen as a child and uncovering her true heritage. I liked this touch and the links we got to her father and Zeus because they really added to the tale. I even enjoyed the journey over to Troy. Nevertheless this story had to fall flat somewhere, it is when we reach Troy and she seems to be searching for time to fill the space. I never reached the huge, colossal battle that destroys a civilization, the great Achilles and all over a woman. NEVER did I reach that in OVER 400 pages. George didn’t leave us action less, but I felt like it was dragging too much to actually reach the battle which is where my interest lost.

In some ways I wish I had preserved because I feel the battle would have again stole my attention because George wrote in a fabulous detail that managed to encapsulate every essence of Ancient Greece but stopped before you became lost in every tiny detail.

Helen of Troy is far from being a bad book, I think George takes an inventive, new approach to the tale of the famed Helen of Troy who know felt like a real person and not some absolutely stunning woman on a pedestal that has been famed. She had thoughts and feelings and she wasn’t entirely stupid. I liked Helen for most of the story until she ran off for Troy. For that, I find it hard to forgive her. However George creates a story that gives a reason and adds flavour to the previously rather vague story of Helen of Troy. I think that if George had cut the story 200, even 100 pages shorter she would have managed to keep the story with a much tighter narrative and not lost us in the mundanely-ness and politics of Troy that first occur when Helen enters which I felt too much time was spent on.

So, despite not finishing Helen of Troy for those mythology lovers and those much more ready and with much more spare time ready to take on a 700 page novel, I utterly recommend Helen of Troy. For those, like me, cursed never to finish such a long book, I’d say maybe try an audio of this book or just skip it and wallow in annoyance that you cannot finish a darn book beyond 600 pages.

~ 2.5 / 5 Books ~

Nerd Fact

The Trojan War is depicted in the Iliad written by Homer which was written quite a while after the events and is unknown whether to be truthful or largely fiction.

Heinrich Schliemann is the German man who claimed his fame in finding Troy, but in actual fact the city remains he uncovered were not Troy and whilst the place in Anatolia, Turkey, is where the city is. It was actual several layers of earth below this in which more city remains were found which are now believed to be Troy.



Filed under 2.5 Books, 2007 Publication, Adult, DNF, Historical Fiction, Margaret George, Pan Publishing, Paperback, Romance

24 responses to “Helen of Troy

  1. It’s too bad this wasn’t very good because it sounds really cool!

  2. I don’t read much historical fiction for a history-lover, either. Although I hated History at school, I loved uncovering the past and re-discovering old eras. It doesn’t take much to interest me in that regard! Though, I have to admit, a 700 page long book scares me a little. I rarely gravitate towards books longer than 400 pages, so I can understand why you didn’t make it through to the end. Audio sounds like a good idea here. Great review, Livvy!

  3. I find it interesting that you enjoyed so much of this novel despite not finishing it. I doubt I’ll pick it up because of its length, but it certainly sounds very interesting! 🙂

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      Yes, the length seems to be the only predicament which is why I just couldn’t face finishing it.

  4. I fall into the same problem with big books. I get half way there and fall off the horse. I LOVE mythology, but 700 pages? I don’t think so. Do you know any other small books just as awesome as Margaret George that focus on Mythology or Greece?

  5. Maybe you haven’t found THE long book yet that will break your curse? Not sure what kind of genres you like, but two of my favorite long books, and the ones I basically recommend to everyone, are The Count of Monte Cristo (French classic; get the Robin Buss translation) and The Name of the Wind (epic fantasy). I read TCOMC in 5 days–and that bugger is 1200 pages long! Absolutely unputdownable.

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      That’s what I’m hoping on. I have The Name of the Wind sat on my shelf to read now so thanks for the recommendation, as I’m certainly interested to read it now with your recommendations.

      Wow. I shall definitely think about The Count of Monte Cristo though! 🙂

  6. I want to get into more hist. fic but I think 700 pages would really put me off too, unless I read this slowly, while also reading other books.

    Sometimes I find books have too many battles, so it’s interesting that this didn’t have a battle for the first half of the book!

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      Yeah, I don’t think this is a good spot to get into historical fiction with.

      Yes, most certainly is interesting!

  7. It’s so odd, I read 300 books a year, but I still get intimidated by very long books, which is why I still haven’t read Tigana or 1Q84, despite owning copies of both.

    That being said, I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, even though I don’t read it often. Obviously I had to suffer through Iliad both in high school and in Uni, and later I had to teach it to my high school students, while I was still working there. It would be interesting to see this version of the story, at least a part of it.
    Great review.

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      That is certainly a lot of books. I think they just look so daunting all together rather than several books that could make up that one big one.

      Yes, I think you’d enjoy this one much more than the Iliad! I try to start reading the Iliad, but it didn’t quite work for me. Thanks, Maja.

  8. I don’t do much historical fiction either and I think that 700 pages would def be a scare away for me.

  9. Wow 700 pages? I think a book has to be pretty spectacular for you to commit to more than 500 pages. It sounds like this one is definitely interesting, but I’m not sure it would justify the time for me personally. Honestly though, I don’t know any books of that size that would. My friends love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, and those are absolute bricks. I read Gone With the Wind, which was over 1K, but it was in stages and as part of a book club, so I feel like that’s cheating. 🙂

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews


      Well now I don’t feel so bad that you say that. I just feel like 500 pages would suffice for the book and it would be good.

      Reading in stages does sound like a very good idea. And I’d say it would still count! 🙂

  10. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves (28) | Nerdy Book Reviews

  11. I may give this one a try. Your opinion of Paris reminds me very much of the one portrayed in Eric Shanower’s graphic novel series Age of Bronze (which is really good, and seems to tie itself as nicely to historical fact as it’s able to). There are only three books so far, but I’m certainly looking forward to the next one, especially since Helen is beginning to be just as annoyed with Paris as I’ve been from the start! (And, of course, there was quite a bit of goddess interference in the whole Paris/Helen love story anyway.)

    Anyway, great review! Sorry it took me a few days to get around to reading it. 🙂

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      Age of Bronze series sounds an interesting one. I’m not usually one for graphic novels, but it definitely sounds interesting! No worries, Merin. I hope you like this one if you get around to reading it! 🙂

  12. I’m not that afraid of huge books (I’m currently reading The Passage and that one is even bigger :p) and I really enjoy historical fiction. This might be a gook for me to pick up 🙂


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