Peter Ackroyd, The Fall of Troy (2006)

First, let me just say that you’ll read very little about the book itself in this post. I’m enjoying a stay-cation and trying to catch up on much overdue book posts before some more workdays and before we leave for the real holidays (insert little happy dance here).

Ugh, I have little hope of completely catching up, so busy are we with the swimming pool, the dinosaurs bones museum (hum, I guess it’s officially the Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy), the pretend-we’re-tourists game and the gastronomic trip to the Chinese neighborhood. In my workdays routine I tend to forget why so many foreigners come to our city, but Paris in the summer, with a slower pace and fewer people (and sadly, fewer opened bakeries) is a place to behold.

And that’s when from the back of my memory, a book title emerges, for which I can hardly express a clear opinion anymore.

Yup I’ve read it. From start to finish. I have quickly digested it, but forgotten it almost at the same pace. It wasn’t bad or dragging, it was just that I found no connection to the main characters, an obsessed archaeologist who claims to have discovered the ancient city of Troy and its treasures. I love history, but I’m not into the digging, the mud and dirt and excavation thing.

Now the interesting bit is that I wasn’t aware at the time of reading that the main character, Herr Obermann, is strongly inspired by a real person, 19th century German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Ackroyd tells the story from his wife’s point of view, Sophia, a young Greek woman who has been married off to the archeologist mainly for financial reasons. But unexpectedly she grows to appreciate her husband, like him even, and to enjoy archaeology, even if she still distrusts him because he has something dark and crazy about his obsession.

I think I might have enjoyed the book a lot more if I had known this before (perhaps it would have been nice to have a preface, for once). My husband borrowed this book knowing how obsessed I was at the time (still am) with all things Greek and mythological. But this is more about how far some people are ready to go for their own obsession than about Homer himself.

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6 thoughts on “Peter Ackroyd, The Fall of Troy (2006)

  1. When I first read about the antiquities in Egypt I fantasized about being an archaeologist some day and digging up ancient civilizations. Then I saw actual digging being done and knew it is not for me. It is very hot, dusty and minutely detailed work – as in boring. Nevertheless, the romance of discovery does linger. The book you read may not have much Homer in it, but it was love for Homer that started Schliemann on his quest.

    • Yes, that’s what Ackroyd tries to show: that Schliemann was so in love with Homer that it didn’t matter to him if facts and science didn’t quite corroborate his theories. Perhaps this book is more for you than for me.

  2. I thought I was the only one who read something and almost immediately forgot what the book was about – even it I liked it! That happens more than I care to admit. One little tidbit since you mentioned Homer, the oldest volume I have is a leather bound Homer’s Illiad published in 1784 (if I am reading my roman numerals correctly) with a book plate stating it belonged to a Thomas Mills. I found it in an antique store years ago. I spend a lot of time wondering who Mills was and if he enjoyed Homer…and how much the little volume must have cost him way back then…before mass marketing.

  3. Actually, I am planning to do a post about books in my library and was going to include a photo of my little treasure. You have spurred me on!

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