This is a children's book: it is an adventure story for boys.
A retelling of the last year of the Trojan war, from the 3rd person perspective of Nicostratus, the 12 year old son of Helen and Menelaus. Extraordinarily true to its sources (the author boasts that he hasn't invented a single character) and brilliantly simplified so that it becomes rather clearer than the originals but nothing is lost. There are some brilliant villains: Paris is endlessly cynical about the honour of the old guard and full of victory schemes that involve a certain amount of dishonorable conduct; Deiphobus is a wonderfully bloodthirsty bully, Palamedes a lisping, sly traitor.
On the whole the Greeks are goodies and the Trojans rather nasty oriental types; I suppose it is in the nature of a book about war to divide the world into us, the goodies, and them, the enemy baddies, and this will almost always simplify and divide over nationalistic if not racist lines; nevertheless I would love to find a story telling the Trojan war from the point of view of the Trojans - pace Vergil's Aeneid.
I must have read this book when I was about twelve and I dare say I utterly identified with Nico. I loved the Lancelyn Green oeuvre, including his Robin Hood, his King Arthur, and his Tales of the Greek Heroes. Looking back I can see he wrote this tales well, and the lack of character depth and complexity merely makes it suitable for the genre: boys' adventure stories.
From about fifty years ago I can still remember this paragraph: "'Now, Nicostratus!' he cried, exultantly. 'Look! I'll stab you just there, where it'll hurt most; and then there, where it means a slow but certain death; and there, so that you'll not be able to move from the floor. Are you ready? Look, my sword is drawn back for the first and cruellest blow -'" (Ch 8) What are the rules the creative writing classes teach you about dialogue? Use 'said' rather than anything such as ... 'cried'. Don't use an adverb such as 'exultantly'. Avoid exclamation marks! I have remembered this paragraph (and shuddered) for fifty years !!!!!
Another great line: "that old bore Nestor, who would talk the tail off a mermaid and then explain how they grew new ones when he was young." (Ch 4)
It's written for kids and I enjoyed it all over again. Great writing.
I also enjoyed learning that Palamedes was King of Nauplia, a town I enjoyed visiting a couple of years ago.
|The bay at Nauplia, March 2019|
|This blog was written|
by the author of Motherdarling
Roger Lancelyn Green also wrote a biography of C S Lewis.