Staff Review – A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

Greek mythology has always been something that has interested me. I’ve read other Greek historical fiction novels before, and was eager to pick up another. “A Thousand Ships” tells a story many of us have heard before – the Trojan war – but with a twist. If you’re familiar with the story of the Trojan war, you’re likely familiar with names such as Achillies, Paris, Hector, and some of the other men who were made famous from the battle. Natalie Haynes ventures into the oftentimes untold stories of the women affected by the great war, including both mortals and goddesses.

The story is told from multiple women’s perspectives. Each chapter is a different point of view, and while the majority of the stories take place after the war is over, there are some that jump back to the beginning. Some stories are told only once, whereas some women, such as Penelope, Hecabe and Cassandra, are revisited. I really enjoyed reading the story of the Trojan war in a way I had never done before. While I have not actually sat down and read “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey”, I have read other works and have learned a lot over the years about these stories, and yet I still learned so much in reading this book. For example, I was unaware of some of the chain of events leading up to the war, especially how much the gods and goddesses set things into motion with prophecies, bets and schemes of their own. I loved reading about the connections between the characters and how small actions affected things down the line.

As mentioned, there are several different stories told in this novel. I enjoyed learning about some women I knew little to nothing about, including Themis (the goddess responsible for the divine order of things), Clytemnestra (wife of Agamemnon), as well as learning more about women I thought I knew, including Helen (the woman at the heart of the war – “the face that launched a thousand ships”) and Penelope (wife of Odysseus). As usual, the history is told of the men, but the women were strong heroes in their own right, as shown in this quote from page 177:

“If he complains to me again, I will ask him this: is Oenone less of a hero than Menelaus? He loses his wife so he stirs up an army to bring her back to him, costing countless lives and creating countless widows, orphans and slaves. Oenone loses her husband and she raises their son. Which of those is the more heroic act?”

If you’re looking for a story of strong women, strong connections and strong storytelling, this is just the novel for you. Pick up Natalie Haynes’ A Thousand Ships today!