Troy: The Greeks Were Gross

By: Stephen Fry
My Rating: Four out of Five Stars
Best for: 16 and up (who enjoy history/mythology!)

The Greeks Were Gross

What I expected: A dramatized retelling of the Fall of Troy that would be interesting, exciting, and maybe even funny! I mean, Stephen Fry is a comedian and an actor and an author AND he’s the voice of the Harry Potter books in the UK (which literally means nothing, but it also means everything). So Troy should be a slam dunk, right?.

What I got: An extremely intelligent study of the people, places, mythology, and chronology connected to the Rise and Fall of Troy that was somewhat interesting, quite confusing, not super exciting, a little bit traumatizing, and generally unfunny. (Okay, okay. I know there’s nothing funny about the sacking of Troy…I’m just comparing my expectations to experience!)

Now, what Stephen Fry did here was actually pretty cool. He took all the history-blended-with-mythology (think The Iliad, The Odyssey, and others) and produced a chronological narrative of the events of the Trojan War. All (and I mean ALL) the players are there: Helen, Paris, Achilles, Odysseus, Agamemnon, and all the rest. The Gods are there too, woven into the narrative with as much attention as the history. This book is quite a feat of research, and the outcome is SUPER impressive–simply because this is really, really OLD history we’re talking about. So old, these tales were already 700 years old when HOMER started speaking them out loud for someone else to write down. And Homer? He lived 2500 years ago. The mythology is so tied to the historical record, it’s impossible to sort fact from fiction. But Stephen Fry tried, and that’s what’s cool.

But that’s not what I wanted.

What I wanted was a novel that reads like fiction but is based on fact. See Michael Shaara’s brilliant The Killer Angels for an example. Troy was close–the characters had personalities, and there was certainly some wonderful authorship. So it wasn’t entirely like a history lesson–it was just mostly a history lesson. Like if your college history professor had a ton of personality and gave a really engaging lecture. That’s what reading “Troy” was like.

Troy also reminded me of how WERID the ancient Greeks were. Lots of sex with lots of people/relatives/animals. Gruesome violence. So. Much. Drama. There was nothing gratuitous or gory in Stephen Fry’s writing–just the facts. But there’s enough to keep you raising your eyebrows and shaking your head.

That’s a pretty good description of what you’ll find in Troy. A fantastic job of research and writing. All the facts, details, relationships and explanations are in there. It’s A LOT and it’s terribly confusing, but Stephen Fry has done the best job I’ve even experienced making these freaky Greek weirdos come to life.

Now if someone would please write me a factually accurate, fully dramatized novel about the sacking of Troy, beginning with the secret birth of Paris and ending with the Trojan Horse, I would be very grateful. Seriously, it would be amazing. History’s most famous beauties and heroes–Helen, Paris, Hector, Achilles, Odysseus–fighting and loving and winning and dying! Talk about epic! That is what I want! Give it to me now!

This version of the history of Troy is best for history buffs 16 and up.

Happy Reading!

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