This is the only book I’ve read so far by Mary Renault, but I will be reading more! The King Must Die is the first of two novels telling the story of Theseus, best knowing for battling the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of the Palace of Knossos. This first volume covers the early part of his life, beginning with his childhood in Troizen, and is a clever blend of history and myth.
This retelling of the Iliad is written from the perspective of Patroclus, the friend and companion of Achilles. Madeline Miller creates a beautifully moving love story for Patroclus and Achilles, as well as making the story of the Trojan War accessible and understandable even to those with limited knowledge of Ancient Greece.
In this, the first of Emily Hauser’s Golden Apple trilogy, the story of the Trojan War is told from the perspective of two female characters – Krisayis and Briseis – who are given little attention in other versions such as Homer’s Iliad. This approach to the story makes it feel fresh and original. I enjoyed it, although not all aspects of the novel worked for me, particularly several chapters in which we meet the gods on Mount Olympus. I had no such problems with Hauser’s next book, however…
A very enjoyable novel which reimagines the story of Atalanta, with a focus on her involvement with Jason and the Argonauts and their search for the legendary Golden Fleece. A mixture of adventure, history, mythology and romance, this is an entertaining read. It’s a sequel, of sorts, to For the Most Beautiful, but the books don’t need to be read in order.
The final book in Hauser’s trilogy introduces us to two more heroines of Greek mythology: Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and Admete, daughter of the King of Tiryns. The story incorporates elements of the Hercules myth as well. Although it’s not necessary to have read the previous two novels first, it would be a good idea because this one links back to the first in quite a clever way.
A retelling of the tragic story of the House of Atreus, described in Aeschylus’ famous trilogy, the Oresteia. Written from the perspectives of three different characters – Clytemnestra, Orestes and Electra – this is a fascinating and eerily atmospheric novel, but one that I found lacking in passion and emotion.
Like For the Most Beautiful above, this novel reimagines events from the Iliad from a female perspective – that of Briseis, a character I warmed to immediately. One notable aspect of this book was the focus on Briseis’ work as a healer. Well-researched and very readable!
A fascinating novel from 1974 about Sappho, the Greek lyric poet. Very little is known about Sappho today, but Martha Rofheart uses the known facts as a starting point to give a possible interpretation of what her life could have been like. I wasn’t entirely swept away by this book, but I did find it an entertaining and educational read.
Well, this one needs no introduction! It probably doesn’t really belong on a list of Ancient Greek historical fiction, but I felt I had to include it here anyway. I read a prose translation by T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) which gave me no problems at all.
Have you read any of these? What are your favourite books about Ancient Greece?