Summary and book reviews of A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

A Thousand Ships

by Natalie Haynes

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes X
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
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  • Published:
    Jan 2021, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Will Heath
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Book Summary

Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, a gorgeous retelling of the Trojan War from the perspectives of the many women involved in its causes and consequences - for fans of Madeline Miller.

This is the women's war, just as much as it is the men's. They have waited long enough for their turn...

This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of them all...

In the middle of the night, a woman wakes to find her beloved city engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over. Troy has fallen.

From the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks, to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf, to Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, to the three goddesses whose feud started it all, these are the stories of the women whose lives, loves, and rivalries were forever altered by this long and tragic war.

A woman's epic, powerfully imbued with new life, A Thousand Ships puts the women, girls and goddesses at the center of the Western world's great tale ever told.

1
Calliope

Sing, Muse, he says, and the edge in his voice makes it clear that this is not a request. If I were minded to accede to his wish, I might say that he sharpens his tone on my name, like a warrior drawing his dagger across a whetstone, preparing for the morning's battle. But I am not in the mood to be a muse today. Perhaps he hasn't thought of what it is like to be me. Certainly he hasn't: like all poets, he thinks only of himself. But it is surprising that he hasn't considered how many other men there are like him, every day, all demanding my unwavering attention and support. How much epic poetry does the world really need?

Every conflict joined, every war fought, every city besieged, every town sacked, every village destroyed. Every impossible journey, every shipwreck, every homecoming: these stories have all been told, and countless times. Can he really believe he has something new to say? And does he think he might need me to help him keep track of all his characters, or ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

While Circe and The Silence of the Girls take overlooked women characters — from the Odyssey and Iliad respectively — and add weight and perspective to their stories, Haynes opts for a different approach here. And it is this approach that ultimately allows A Thousand Ships to shine: There is no central protagonist, nor one established narrator. A Thousand Ships takes us through different locations in time and space, covering established moments and events in Greek history and mythology, even seamlessly incorporating deities such as Gaia and Artemis. In jumping back and forth — gently yet unpredictably — it is as though Haynes is casting a length of string between various points and stitching them together through the experiences of the novel's featured women...continued

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(Reviewed by Will Heath).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
Haynes delivers a sparkling narrative about the Trojan War that will appeal to fans of Game of Thrones as well as die-hard mythology nerds...A Thousand Ships does more than acknowledge the suffering of women. It tells in lively fashion gripping tales of bravery, treachery and revenge.

The Telegraph (UK)
Haynes is master of her trade...She succeeds in breathing warm life into some of our oldest stories.

The Guardian (UK)
Absorbing and fiercely feminist…this subversive re-seeing of the classics is a many-layered delight.

Publishers Weekly
[E]xcellent...Haynes shines by twisting common perceptions of the Trojan War and its aftermath in order to capture the women's experiences. Readers who enjoyed Madeline Miller's Circe will want to take a look.

Booklist
A witty, unapologetically feminist story of women's suffering, courage, and endurance…Haynes' freshly modern version of an ancient tale is perfect for our times.

Library Journal
If there is any need for one more trip down this well-traveled road after Madeline Miller's Circe and Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls, this lively reinvention is worth the journey.

Author Blurb Madeline Miller, author of Circe
With her trademark passion, wit, and fierce feminism, Natalie Haynes gives much-needed voice to the silenced women of the Trojan War.

Author Blurb Suzannah Lipscomb, author of 1536
Here, in this treat of a book, the women take centre stage—and how brilliantly...Natalie Haynes brings them to witty, lyrical, scintillating life...A book to both savour and devour.

Author Blurb Catherine Nixey, author of The Darkening Age
Breathtaking...Her writing isn't merely clever, or elegant, or (at times) extremely funny—though it is all of those things. It's also viscerally vivid.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Truth Behind Helen of Troy and the Trojan War

Head of Helen of Troy, painting by Guido Reni The story of the Trojan War, fought between the Greeks and the people of Troy, has been told and retold for thousands of years. This is in large part thanks to the efforts of Homer, the ancient Greek poet who penned the Iliad and Odyssey, recordings of epic stories set during and after the war. Legendary figure Helen of Troy plays a significant role in depictions of the conflict, which is said to have been sparked when she was whisked away from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta, by the Trojan prince Paris. But did the Trojan War actually happen, even if it didn't occur exactly as Homer and his contemporaries described it? Where was Troy and who was Helen?

As explained in a BBC article by Daisy Dunn, the Greek historian Herodotus, ...

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