Part of the What We Are Reading Now collection of Book Reviews by friends of Essex Book Festival

A Book Review by Katrina Webb

A Thousand Ships begins with the voice of Calliope, the muse of epic poetry but this is not to be the expected tale of the fall of Troy through the eyes of the men, warriors, kings and gods of Ancient Greece and Troy. Natalie Haynes gives a much-needed voice to the “silenced women of the Trojan War”, that history has more or less ignored. As she moves us through the wonderful stories of these mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, queens and goddesses we feel their despair anger and sorrow but there is also humour.

The women’s individual stories interact with each other as we watch Troy burn. Ancient Greek history is brought to life as we move between the characters. I found myself particularly looking forward to the letters from Penelope to her husband Odysseus as she sits weaving, running a kingdom and fending off young suitors for 20 years! Her slightly tongue in cheek comments, coupled with growing despair and frustration, made me laugh out loud in places. I loved A Thousand Ships and am really pleased that Natalie Haynes has “sung of the women, the women in the shadows” as we all know, “ war does not ignore half the people whose lives it touches”.

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