Wednesday, January 27, 2021

"A Thousand Ships"

Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster. Her first novel, The Amber Fury [US title: The Furies], was published to great acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, as was The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, her previous book. Her second novel, The Children of Jocasta, was published in 2017.

Haynes applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Thousand Ships, a retelling of the Trojan War, and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Thousand Ships is the story of Chryseis, a young Trojan daughter of a priest, deciding whether it is worth trying to escape from her Greek captors (they have already killed the boy she was meeting). She is clever and resourceful, but her life has been shaped by the war which has raged outside the walls of her city for the past decade. Her options are also limited because she is afraid of her father and how he would respond to her rule-breaking (she shouldn’t be outside the city walls at all, let alone at night) if he were to find out about it.

It is quite a representative page, to be honest. This is a polyphonic novel, so it changes voice and perspective with each chapter, trying to create a narrative of the war from the point of view of the many women whose lives it impacts. I guess because of that, pretty much any individual page would have a good chance of being representative: the story of Chryseis is quite a long chapter, but it would be just as valid if it had been one of the very short (a page or two) ones, I think. The idea was always to hear a chorus of women’s voices.

This page really does offer a miniature version of the whole: it focuses on a young woman whose life is affected irrevocably by a war over which she has no control. It describes the bloodshed of an innocent, which obviously happens in any conflict. I wanted to write a novel which looked at how the violence of war isn’t limited to the battlefield, how the heroes of a conflict aren’t just the men who fight in it, and how its survivors are not always in a better position than the dead.

Although – spoiler – that will not be true for Chryseis, who finds herself with two unexpected allies. They change her fate entirely.

Good work, Page 69 test! You win this round.
Visit Natalie Haynes's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Furies.

My Book, The Movie: The Furies.

--Marshal Zeringue