Troy by Stephen Fry

Well, he’s done it again, so there’s not much to say really: if you loved the first two (Mythos and Heroes) then there’s no reason why you’re not going to get the same thrill and the occasional sly smile out of Troy. It’s the same characters we travelled with (in varying depths of detail) in the first two outings, but transposed to the decade-long battle to break the city of Troy.

If you don’t know the story then it more or less starts with a prince called Paris, who judges a contest of goddesses to decide who is the fairest of them all (that never ends well). In return for choosing Aphrodite, he is ‘given’ Helen, thought to be the most beautiful woman on earth, and takes her to his bed behind the walls of Troy. (It should be noted that Helen was under the influence of Aphrodite, so none of this is really her fault). As you can guess, there are handful of kingly-types who are none too pleased about this, one of them being Helen’s husband, Menelaus who, with more than enough help from his bigger, angrier brother Agamemnon, raises an army to take her back.

Now what should’ve been a straightforward city sacking was made more complicated by the constant interference of the gods, who had their own favourites on the battlefield and scores to settle on Olympus. So in the end, the whole project took a lot longer than it should’ve and the results were … well … mixed to say the least.

Again, there’s a lot of Stephen Fry in this book. It’s beautifully (poshly) written with little nods to himself as well as another book’s worth of references and character sketches at the back: a bit like reading a classics PhD project, but more entertaining. Yes, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s poetic; it’s a sour testament to the egos of men and gods.

Unsurprisingly enough, it’s well worth a read.

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