Power, glory and family

2009-05-27 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

King of Ithaca

Glyn Iliffe

Pan

THE author of this lively novel (the first of a trilogy) is an ex-student of English and Classics, and clearly is geographically, archaeologically and historically well informed about Bronze Age Greece (apart from the strange mention in his Author’s Note of “the prose of Homer”. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey certainly weren’t prose). The book is thus highly vivid in its depiction of the Greek landscape, of weaponry, of infantry combat; and his depiction of characters is arresting and convincing. One is presented with a parade of famous or infamous characters from myth and literature: the stunning but unhappy Helen, a smart and engaging Penelope (Odysseus’s future wife), the calculating Agamemnon, his bitter, intelligent and understandably murderous wife Clytaemnestra, the giant warrior Ajax (before he became a detergent) and several others.

The nominal focus of the novel is Eperitus, a young man driven into exile by a family disgrace and desperate to restore his own honour by winning glory in battle. This makes him a somewhat macho and two-dimensional character, though not totally unsympathetic. But the real interest in the story is Odysseus: that archetype for at least three thousand years of the cunning, resourceful and resilient trickster hero. Interestingly, Iliffe’s novel concentrates on Odysseus’s early career as an Ithacan prince, before the Trojan War (which nonetheless looms on the horizon) and before his famous homeward odyssey through a semi-magical world. He comes across here as genial, immensely powerful, clever and an excellent leader. And although he travels to Sparta along with other chieftains to sue for the hand of Helen, he is intriguingly side-tracked by Penelope, the less glamorous of the eligible princesses but decidedly the most interesting, and their irritable but ultimately committed relationship provides much amusing and intimate interaction.

This is not a great novel but it is a good fast read, full of blood and thunder, ruthless politics, mostly realistic characters, some moments of high drama, all pleasantly mellowed by a certain informality and very down-to-earth relationships.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.