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Helen of Troy    by Margaret George order for
Helen of Troy
by Margaret George
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

Wars are sparked for many reasons. The Trojan War, fought twelve hundred years before the birth of Christ, continues to be famous for its origins. Homer's Iliad tells the haunting tale of Helen of Troy and her love for the Trojan prince Paris. Their romance led to the Trojan War. Helen's exquisite beauty is said to be the face that 'launched a thousand ships.' Margaret George's most recent novel, Helen of Troy, tells Helen's story in the sweeping tapestry of history and beauty for which George has become famous.

Helen, originally from Sparta, was born to her human mother Leda, who had an affair with Zeus. Because of Helen's beauty her parents hid her from prying eyes and denied her the use of mirrors. When Helen reached an age to be married, suitors came from far and wide. She chose Menelaus, a man who showed her kindness and who loved her deeply. But Helen never felt passionately about him. The goddess Aphrodite was absent until Helen met Paris. Instantly the pair fell in love, fleeing to Troy, where they married. When Menelaus and his war-hungry brother Agamemnon returned to reclaim Helen a war was launched. The story of Helen of Troy contains many familiar heroes and heroines - from Achilles to Odysseus - all brought together in a mesmerizing tale of a time we have all learned about, but without such life being breathed into it.

Margaret George has tackled other such characters throughout history from Mary Magdalene to Cleopatra to Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scots. Her novels are well researched, yet poetically crafted. When recounting tales of such larger than life figures it would be easy to launch into dry, lengthy retellings of their lives. But George captures readers, no matter their original interest in the subject. Her fine attention to detail is exquisite and makes readers feel like they are either standing in a market in Troy, as Helen, or pursuing a raven-haired Anne Boleyn, as Henry VIII. This reader's only complaint is that after 600 pages I didn't want the book to end, without having another one of George's historicals to take its place.

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