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A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

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

In the middle of the night, Creusa wakes to find her beloved Troy engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of brutal conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over, and the Greeks are victorious. Over the next few hours, the only life she has ever known will turn to ash . . .

The devastating consequences of the fall of Troy stretch from Mount Olympus to Mount Ida, from the citadel of Troy to the distant Greek islands, and across oceans and sky in between. These are the stories of the women embroiled in that legendary war and its terrible aftermath, as well as the feud and the fatal decisions that started it all…

Powerfully told from an all-female perspective, A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent

My thoughts:

I’m living for all these Greek Mythology retellings honestly. I enjoyed Madeline Millers Song of Achilles and Circe as well as Pat Barkers Silence of the Girls so I was really excited when I saw A Thousand Ships at my local library and even more excited to dive right in. Especially because this was centred around the stories of women and explores the stories of lesser known figures too. I definitely learnt a lot and this anthology of sorts was moving, interesting and well written.

I loved that each chapter followed a different woman or group, ranging from the Trojan women, to Clytemnestra, to Laodamia, to Thetis and Breisis and many more. The novel also jumps around in time to show the present and future fate of the characters which was a nice touch. Most of the characters felt heartbreakingly real and believable, as they went through varying trials and tribulations. My favourite character is definitely Cassandra, as her story and subsequent fate was so poignant. Cassandra is a princess of Troy, who is cursed with true visions and prophecies, which is terrible enough but the most damning part of the curse is that no-one will ever believe her. Reading as she had to navigate her knowledge of the fate of her city as well as her loved ones whilst being powerless to stop it was so sad and powerful.

As well as the structure itself really working for me, I enjoyed the quality of the writing and how descriptive and introspective it was. In contrast to constant action, Natalie Haynes provides a glimpse into the lives and minds of various female characters and does so in such a wonderful way. I haven’t read another retelling of this nature- at least yet – which covers so much ground and so many ‘main’ characters, and is also a beautiful story on it’s own merits. I feel like I understood each of these women and their motivations, their mistakes or their triumphs and that is down to Haynes emotive writing style.

I just have to include some of my favourite quotes from the novel to help illustrate my point about how beautiful the writing is;

“It does hurt, I whispered. It should hurt. She isn’t a footnote, she’s a person. And she – all the Trojan women – should be memorialised as much as any other person.” 

Having held off for so long, she thought her eyes would not remember what to do. But many days later, standing in front of the funeral pyre of Achilles – cut down in battle by Apollo, they said – she did weep. And she wept for everyone but him”

“Still she could not bear to leave the waters edge, so strong was her sense that once she had turned away from the ocean she had turned away from all happiness”

“But revenge, when it came, came from another quarter altogether, and it rolled out onto the ground, gleaming and golden”

Overall, A Thousand Ships does what it sets out to do; telling the lost stories of women and giving them a voice after thousands of years of their voices being suppressed or deemed unimportant. Haynes gives these women’s stories a validity and an urgency, which will satisfy readers who love Greek mythology as well as those who want a feminist retelling of a classic tale. I think it will appeal to those looking to get into Greek Myths and get an alternative to the male driven narratives of The Iliad.

Until next time,

Rumaanah x

9 thoughts on “A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

  1. Love the sound of this! I received a copy of Circe last month so I’m so excited to finally read that, and I loved The Silence of the Girls last year 😍 So happy to see there are more female-lead retellings lately!

    Evie x | http://www.eviejayne.co.uk

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