A Thousand Ships – Book Review

By: Natalie Haynes

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes is my third book from the list of nominees for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I’ve also read and reviewed Dominicana and Girl, Woman, Other.

My brief summary:

This book follows the aftermath of the Trojan War, solely from the perspective of the women involved.  Each chapter is dedicated to a different woman and her story.  The views of both the Trojan and Greek women are included as well as stories from ancient Greek goddesses. Some of the women die pretty early on, but some the readers follow through the whole book. Haynes offers a unique perspective on a  well-known historical event.

My review:

I was really excited about this book; not only are the reviews amazing, but it is also a historical fiction novel, which is my favourite genre.  However, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book.  I think there are a couple of reasons for this, which I will detail below.

First off, the Trojan War is relatively familiar to me, and I didn’t find anything new or surprising about anything in this story.  There was no climax; there was no intrigue that kept me wanting to read more; there was really very little surprise or excitement in this plot.  It just reviewed the same event over and over from different perspectives but all fairly similar.  Since it is a fiction novel, I hoped that there would be a bit more added to the story to excite the reader about this well-known event.

Secondly, I really don’t find mythology interesting, and I didn’t realize how much mythology would be included in this story. Mythological characters were repeatedly mentioned in each chapter, and these figures also had their own chapter.  I really found these parts hard to read, especially the very long chapter detailing the fight between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, this chapter I almost skipped. This is, however, my fault, not Haynes. I should have done more research before reading this book.

Lastly, the perspectives of the women were, in my opinion, really boring.  Nothing was intriguing or exciting about any of them. Either they spent the entire chapter grieving the loss of Troy and their men, or they spent the whole chapter discussing how much they missed their Greek husbands who were away fighting this never-ending war. Some chapters offered a bit more excitement, but even those I found predictable. This is really unfortunate because some of the women featured in this novel are famous heroic women, so I would have liked to see a bit more excitement with their characters.

Natalie Haynes is a talented writer; her writing style is easy to follow and understand.  I never felt like her writing was confusing or too complex, which helped in reading the story.  It was nice to see the perspectives of both the Trojan women and the Greek woman included.   

I know I have mostly criticized this book, and I do that knowing that this book is very well-reviewed and nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, so clearly, my opinion on this book is in the minority, so I would still recommend you read this book and decide for yourself!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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