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The Fall Of Troy
by Quintus Smyrnaeus, Trans. By Arthur Sanders Way
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From Publishers Weekly
Whitbread and Guardian Fiction Prize–winner Ackroyd has made a career out of charting London's history, most recently in The Lambs of London and Shakespeare: The Biography. Here he turns to old Troy. In telegram- and steamboat-era Athens, the Greek Sophia Chrysanthis hastily weds German archeologist Johann Ludwig Heinrich Julius Obermann, mainly out of desire for an Indiana Jones–style adventure. Sophia quickly finds, however, that life with Johann approximates the Trojan excavation site (outside the Turkish village of Hissarlik) that Johann mines so lovingly: one jaw-dropping discovery follows another. But while Johann interprets the antiquities he finds using the Iliad, Sophia is left without a guide to her enigmatic husband's true self. Unfortunately, although her predicament effectively mirrors the plight of Helen of Troy, and although the riddle of Johann's identity is the very reflection of the Trojan horse's portentousness, Sophia spends the greater part of the novel wincing and rationalizing. And a book's worth of calculation is undone at the end when Ackroyd raises hallowed dust, but clouds the issues at hand. (Nov.)
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“Provoking, unsettling, ingenious — and a delight to read.”
“…skillfully interweaves classical and 19th century stories, employing motifs from both Homer and Charlotte Bronte…. Ackroyd’s most exuberant novel for years.”
Fakes, forgeries and plagiarism abound in Ackroyd’s brilliant historical novel, set in the 19th century during the excavation of the Bronze Age site of Troy.
“I cannot wait to bring you to the plain of Troy. To show you the place where Hector and Achilles fought. To show you the palace of Priam. And the walls where the Trojan women watched their warriors in battle with the invader. It will stir your blood, Sophia.”
Sophia Chrysanthis is only 16 when the German archaeologist, Herr Obermann, comes wooing: he wants a Greek bride who knows her Homer. Sophia passes his test, and soon she is tying canvas sacking to her legs so that she can kneel on the hard ground in the trench, removing the earth methodically, identifying salient points, lifting out amphorae and bronze vessels without damaging them.
“Archaeology is not a science,” Obermann says. “It is an art.”
Obermann is very good at the art of archaeology — perhaps too good at it. The atmosphere at Troy is tense and mysterious. Sophia finds herself increasingly baffled by the past . . . not only the remote past that Obermann is so keen to share with her in the form of his beloved epics of the Trojan wars, but also his own, recent past — a past that he has chosen to hide from her.
But she, too, is very good at the art of archaeology . . .
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Peter Ackroyd is a prize-winning author of fiction and non-fiction including major biographies of T.S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, Thomas More and Shakespeare. His most recent novels are the best-selling The Clerkenwell Tales and the highly praised The Lambs of London.
From the Hardcover edition.
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