I love the idea of telling stories of the women of antiquity and specifically the women of The Trojan War has become a popular topic recently so I jumped at the chance to pick up A Thousand Ships.
Overall it’s a good book. I enjoyed it I just find myself almost bummed (don’t know if that’s the right word) that the women who stand out so brightly in this book are the ones with the stories that always have.
Troy of course is most famously brought to life in Homer’s The Iliad (although many of the same women in this book appear in the Odyssey as well and other places) it’s the home of Prince Paris who steals Helen from her husband and sparks a war that will kill thousands and destroy countless other lives.
Haynes really tries to be all encompassing here- a lot of women getting a one chapters appearance to have their stories told. Although there are several chapters entitled The Trojan Women that have several together waiting on the beach to be claimed as slaves. Helen appears in some of them and I did appreciate the little aside to who was more at fault and whether it even matters at this point.
And I had completely forgotten Paris was married before Helen. His wife is included as well.
I also much enjoyed the inclusion of Clytemnestra (Agamemnon is the worst- I could seriously never understand his surviving children in myth either like no one likes him and he killed your poor sister after tricking her give your mother a fucking break on this one!)
We get the apple debate which Zeus alone makes worth while.
I was a little annoyed at the start of Penelope’s chapters as she mostly recounts the stories she’s hearing about Odysseus but I did love the fact that she got progressively more pissed off and snarky the longer his absence went on (I listened to the book and appreciated the amount of barely disguised rage that the narrator brings to those moments.)
Also nice touch to have her question whether he was right to kill he suitors as he did.
So all in all A Thousand Ships is a good read although it still leaves me a bit torn. The most famous of stories stand out so brightly that I honestly believe, important though they may be, some of the other women felt more repetitious and forgettable in their stead.
I mean that’s probably why those stories and those women are the ones that have stood the test of time more strongly than the others. What a great series it would be for a streaming network though- the story of Troy through the eyes of the women.