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Helen of Troy Paperback – May 29, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. George (Mary, Called Magdalene) depicts with bravado, grace and eloquence the grand spectacle surrounding Helen of Troy. The author's research into Mycenaean culture, coupled with Trojan War mythology's larger-than-life heroes, enliven a bold story pulsing with romance and sacrifice, omens and battles. Helen's noble Spartan parents try to defy the fates when a seer foretells the tragedy Helen and her legendary beauty will cause, but, as the myth of Helen demonstrates, destiny cannot be altered. Helen's years of seclusion in Sparta lead to a frigid marriage to Menelaus before she connects with Paris, the Trojan prince with whom she forges an inextricable bond. Barely into her 20s, Helen escapes with Paris to Troy, but finds the Trojan royals welcome her with less than open arms. The mythic war, which, in less capable hands, might be over-romanticized, is portrayed with an enthusiasm that rings true to the period without verging on stagy—no small feat when dealing with such a sweeping conflict. George's extraordinary storytelling abilities shine in her portrayal of Helen as both a conflicted woman who abandoned her homeland and child for true love, and as a legendary figure whose beauty and personal choices had epic consequences. (On sale Aug. 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

When Helen of Sparta is seven years old, the sibyl at Delphi prophesies she will start a war in which many Greeks will die. King Tyndareus and Queen Leda, stricken with panic, keep their younger daughter in seclusion, discouraging rumors that Zeus is her real father. To marry her off quickly, they spread word that Helen is the most beautiful woman in the world. But because Helen fails to invoke Aphrodite when choosing a husband, her marriage to Menelaus of Mycenae is passionless. The fickle goddess finally hears Helen's pleas, yet Aphrodite's powers affect only Paris, a visiting Trojan prince, with whom Helen immediately falls in love. When the pair elopes one night to Paris' affluent homeland, it precipitates a war destined to last 20 years, one that Menelaus' restless and greedy brother, Agamemnon, has been itching to fight. Only George, reigning queen of the epic fictional biography, could render Helen's story with all the emotion, grandeur, and tragedy it deserves. Her characters are precisely crafted, and the lovely Helen, clear-eyed and intelligent, is a sympathetic narrator. Despite the novel's length, the pages practically turn themselves. An absorbing retelling of the classic Trojan War myth, and a sobering look at the utter futility of trying to change one's fate. Sarah Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038993
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret George specializes in epic fictional biographies of historical figures, taking pains to make them as factually accurate as possible without compromising the drama. Her THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII will have its 25th anniversary this September, and continues to be popular. ABC-TV based its 1999 Emmy-nominated "Cleopatra" miniseries on her THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA. All of her books have been bestsellers, with twenty-one foreign translations.

Margaret's father was in the Foreign Service and so she lived overseas for her early life, in such different places as tropical Taiwan, desert Israel, and cold war Berlin, all of which were great training for a novelist to be. She started writing 'books' about the same time as she could write at all, mainly for her own entertainment. It was a diversion she never outgrew. Her published works are: THE AUTOBIOGAPHY OF HENRY VIII, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTLAND AND THE ISLES, THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA, MARY CALLED MAGDALENE, HELEN OF TROY, ELIZABETH I, and an illustrated children's book, LUCILLE LOST.

Margaret lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Washington DC, and has a sextagenarian tortoise as a pet.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Lilly Flora VINE VOICE on August 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Helen of Troy" is the latest offering of the amazing historical novelist Margaret George. She writes very long books encompassing the whole life of a real person, bumps and all. Her work on Henry VIII is the ultimate for Tudor fans, her novel on Cleopatra was beyond compare and now we have this-a very good book, but not her best work.

Unlike her past novels "Helen of Troy" feels more like a story and less like a total life history of the narrator. Not that this is bad, but even though some scenes are included this book has very little of Helen's early life or later life, focusing mainly on the war of Troy. Some of the mythological info on Helen's early life, such as her abduction by Theseus, is even left out of this novel, which acts to give it a more normal feel and make Helen an unusual, but not extraordinary woman of her time. Thus it is more of a story novel, and a bit unlike her past works.

When I read earlier this year "The Memoirs of Helen of Troy" by Amanda Elyot I said that Helen was a poor choice of narrator for her own life story. Ms. George proved me wrong in this. While Ms. Elyot's Helen was conceited and selfish, Helen in Ms. George's book is a normal woman of the time-and for all that she's beautiful, she may not be the most beautiful woman in the world. There is even doubt in this novel as to Zeus being her real father. Thus as a narrator, Helen does a great job of bringing the tragedy and beauty of Troy to life. She's a real person that it's pretty easy to identify with.

I also liked how Ms. George handled the Greek gods in this book. They were real, but elusive, changeable and not understandable by humans. They could be terribly mean and see it as kindness and acting to placate them was a large part of daily life. Ms.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Melissa N. VINE VOICE on May 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Helen of Troy" is a very good book, but it's not author Margaret George's best work. Because Helen is a mythological character, many of the details of her life are rather ambiguous, and so George took many more liberties with this novel than with most of her other books. However, the core of the story remains true to popular mythology. When Helen is a young girl, a seer predicts that the beautiful Spartan princess will be the cause of great tragedy. Helen goes on to marry Menelaus and become the queen of Sparta. The marriage lacks passion, and when Paris, a young Trojan man, visits Sparta, he and Helen fall madly in love. Helen decides to escape with Paris to Troy, leaving her family, husband, and daughter Hermione behind. Helen's actions bring about the Trojan War, and many lives are lost as a result.

One of the problems with this book is that Helen is not a very likeable character. George tries to portray Helen as a strong woman, which she is, but she's also an incredibly selfish person who rejected her family, abandoned her daughter and her duties as queen, and caused a great many people to die...all because she was lusting over Paris. It's hard to come to terms with all that, even though George does her best to gloss over those rather huge portions in the story. As a result, the pacing of the book is rather tedious in places, and failed to capture my attention like "The Autobiography of King Henry VIII" and "Memoirs of Cleopatra." Still, George is a great storyteller, and as someone who is very interested in mythology, I enjoyed reading this new take on a classic tale. "Helen of Troy" is a worthwhile read, but I definitely prefer George's earlier works.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) VINE VOICE on January 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Margaret George brings her epic storytelling talents to the myth of the Trojan War in this engrossing and lush novel.

Helen never feels quite as "real" as George's Cleopatra, or her Henry VIII (though it was often less than pleasant to be inside Henry's head). I can't blame the author for this. Cleopatra and Henry lived lives that have been well-documented by history. With Helen, no one is sure whether she ever existed at all, and the myths that tell her story say little about who she might have been as a person. I think George did a great job using what was available to her, piecing together disparate strands of myth, drawing from what is historically known about how people lived in that period, and making Helen and her loved ones as three-dimensional as possible. I especially thought the development of Helen's relationships with Menelaus and Paris was realistic.

I also liked the treatment of the gods. For most events, George offers both a divine explanation and a mundane one. The reader is left to decide what to believe. One exception was Laocoon's death, which would be hard to explain without divine intervention!

What I wanted to see, and never did see, was a confrontation between Helen and Paris about the "most beautiful woman in the world" issue. Early in the book, Helen refuses to marry any suitor who utters that phrase. Later, Paris recounts to Helen his encounter with the three goddesses, but doesn't tell her what Aphrodite promised him. At the end of that scene, Helen reflects that she had yet to find out what he had been promised. I thought George was foreshadowing an eventual revelation, and I was waiting for the storm that would break when Helen realized Paris had chosen "the most beautiful woman in the world." That scene never came.
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