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September 2011 BOTM: Black Ships by Jo Graham

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
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The Czar
Posts: 137
Joined: May 2011
Location: Nashville TN

Post by The Czar » Wed September 7th, 2011, 2:11 pm

Ok, I have finished the book. This is my first online discussion, so I guess I'll just start with what I thought.

I have never been able to slog through the original Aeneid. The epic poems just make me go cross eyed after a while I guess. But I have read several adaptations.

I found the substitution of Egypt and her princess for Dido of Carthage interesting. I note the author was of the opinion that having Carthage appear is an anachronism. Based on a cursory google search, I have no idea if this is true or not, but in any event, I feel the contrast between "peaceful, timeless Egypt" and the choas and tumult of the rest of the Mediteranian better served the theme of the book of "The People" looking for a safe harbor in a tempest anyway.

I will defer to Laura on the Mycenaean history, as my knowledge of the period comes pretty much exclusively from fiction, although I will point out that, in most other fiction I have read (Margaret George's Hellen of Troy for Instance) , Achilles' son Neoptolemus died earlier and in Greece, not raiding Latium.

Anyway, ignoring any possible historical inaccuracies (understanding that the "history" of this period is two parts legend and one part conjecture anyway) I really enjoyed the book. I think the author did an admirable job developing the characters. I really felt for Gull in her struggle between her duty as Sybil and her desire as a woman. I felt for Aeneas in his struggle against his destiny. I felt for Xandros (sp) as he struggled with his loss and fear of reattachment. I think she did a good job capturing "the People" as a ragtag band with little hope. I especially think she did a very good job with the aspects of Greek religion, specifically the role of the Sybil and the mysteries of Death in the book. Most fiction I read that is set in the ancient greek world makes the religion seem rather silly and impersonal. Ms. Graham did a good job making the religion seem personal and even intimate, and an important part of her character's daily lives.

I will agree with an earlier poster that the villain Neoptolemos was a bit overdone, as he always seemed to turn up, like a bad penny.

As to the story, I do have one question, which shows my ignorance of early roman history/legend. How does the legendary founding of Rome by Aeneas fit in with the equally legendary founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus? I have read good fictional accounts of both legends, but have never understood how they fit together.

ETA: Google and ye shall find. I thought this summary of the founding myths of Rome was interesting, and thought I'd throw it in here.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/articl ... tml?cat=37
Last edited by The Czar on Wed September 7th, 2011, 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

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Posts: 4290
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Post by Vanessa » Fri September 30th, 2011, 5:28 pm

I've finished this now. I enjoyed it - I thought it was quite unusual but interesting. I don't know much about the Ancient Greeks, legendary or not, so I wouldn't know if the author was being creative with the truth. The book is classed as fantasy so I suppose she's allowed literary licence!

I enjoy stories told in the first person but the only thing which irked me were the modernisms amongst the 'she who would be Pythia' style of writing. Some of it just didn't 'read' right to me, a little childish at times!
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind


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