Reviews from My Library Pile is a feature created here at Read and Reviewed, which showcases reviews of books from my TBR list borrowed from my local library. This feature allows me to share my thoughts on these titles in an unscheduled, unplanned way.
A masterful retelling of the last great legend of the Heroic age! This is the story of Helen and the judgment of Paris; of the gathering of the heroes and the siege of Troy; of Achilles with his vulnerable heel; and of Odysseus, the last of the Heroes.
The Iliad and The Odyssey have been on my to-read list for several years, ever since I read a portion of The Odyssey in my high school freshman English class. While I am well-versed in the happenings of both books, I feel it would be some kind of momentous accomplishment if I were to actually read Homer’s epics, since they are both so well-known, so well-loved, and so … huge. In preparation for my reading of The Iliad – which is on my Classics Challenge List – I decided to check out this so-called “precursor” to the real thing, courtesy of Roger Lancelyn Green and recently updated with a new introduction and lots of glossaries/discussion questions (which I did not read and/or use). And while this book definitely does introduce you to the main players in the fall of Troy, it left quite a lot to be desired as well.
What struck me the most about The Tale of Troy is that, considering the epic journeys and adventures of the heroes contained in its pages, the telling of those tales was done in a rather dry, textbook-like way. I could not say that I was particularly gripped at any point during the telling, and likewise very rarely laughed or even had any particular emotion – except for a strong fondness for the guile and wit of Odysseus – strike me while reading. This was almost like a who’s who listing of Greek and Trojan heroes. Names would be mentioned once and then never referenced again. Or, you would be introduced to a major player, but nothing was ever done to make you like or dislike them. While I felt like Achilles behaved like a spoiled child at times, I never really felt any kind of annoyance with him. When Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis, there was no sadness. It all just happened, and I read it, but never actually interacted at all with any of it. It was a very strange reading experience because of this; I don’t think I’ve ever been so disassociated with the narrative before.
There were some moments of humor, mostly courtesy of Odysseus, who is definitely my favorite player in this entire saga. I also liked the mention of a king promising Agamemnon fifty ships, but instead sending one actual ship, with forty-nine clay models of ships stored in its hold. But otherwise, this was basically just a summary of events, sort of “dumbed down” for those who want to know more about the Trojan War but don’t want to bother with Homer’s prose (or rather, the translations of Homer’s prose). If you just want to know what happened, how Troy fell, and what happened to the Greek kings upon their return to Greece, this will certainly answer your questions. But don’t expect much more than that.
Nonetheless, I did like this simply for the information it provided. Could it have been done in a more entertaining way? Certainly. Is it still a worthwhile read? Yes, if you simply want the basic facts and little more. Did I enjoy it? For the most part, although I realize that that statement is not a ringing endorsement.