Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews



The Fall of Troy by Peter Ackroyd








Click on title or picture to buy from amazon.com






Peter Ackroyd’s skilled writing in The Fall of Troy presents a fictionalized account of two 19th century archeologists and the ways in which they manipulated their craft and each other in a search for significance and in the thrill of adventure. Along the way, they dig for loot in ancient Troy and become engulfed in old stories. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 2, pp. 11-13:

The Obermanns left Piraeus on the overnight steamer; the cap­tain of the Zeus had assigned his own valet to them for the short journey to the Dardanelles, but, by the time the young man had brought them coffee, just before dawn, Obermann was al­ready pacing the deck and peering towards the east. "Where is my wife? She must see the dawn."

"I am already with you, Heinrich." Her voice came out of the shadows. "I also wish to see the dawn."

"You have never known the sea until now. There. Look there." The edge of the world was limned with light, and a red glow seemed to spread along the horizon. "The light is glorious. But when the circle of the sun appears, there is a wholly different sensation. There is a revelation." He shielded his eyes from the wind. "That is where our future lies, Sophia. We are sailing towards Troy."

"We are sailing away from home."

"Home is here. With me. I am your home. Look now. Have you ever seen such a colour before? The rising sun will sit upon a throne of blood." He turned to the valet. "Bring our breakfast on to the deck. We must feast on this. Such majesty."

Within a few minutes the boy brought out a plate of cold boiled hens' eggs. To Sophia's astonishment, Obermann took one and swal­lowed it whole. Then he took another. "When I was a child in Meck­lenburg," he said, drinking down a cup of thick black coffee, "I dreamed of buried treasure. There was a small hill in our village. It was surrounded by a ditch and was no doubt a prehistoric burial place. You have no idea how many ancient tombs are still to be found in Europe, but nobody bothers with them. What we call hunengrab."

He rarely used German in her company, but, three days earlier, he had addressed a German couple in Syntagma Square; he seemed to her then to change his identity: he somehow became older, and smaller.

"But in our legends it was known that in this hill a robber-knight had buried his beloved child in a golden cradle. Oh, we were sur­rounded by treasures. There was a pond beside our schoolhouse, out of which a maiden was believed to rise each midnight, holding a sil­ver bowl. Many times my father bitterly lamented his poverty. And I would say to him, 'Papa, why do you not dig up the golden cradle and the silver bowl? Then we will be rich.' He never replied. In our poverty he wished us to keep our fairy stories." To Sophia it seemed that his eyes were brimming with tears. But then he swallowed another egg. "I have always believed that my father poisoned my mother. Does that shock you? Yet I still loved him. I will tell you the story one day"

Sophia retreated to the cabin, on the excuse that she wished to find a handkerchief, and she sat down upon the narrow bed. She saw the Aegean stretching ahead, stirred now by a north-easterly wind, and knew that she had to begin her life again in the company of a stranger.

Obermann came back into the cabin. "My dearest Sophia, I have upset you. I have not been considerate. Forgive me."

"What is there to forgive, Heinrich?"

"We should not dwell upon the past." He burst out laughing. "But who am I to say this? I am an archaeologist!" Then he took her up in his arms and, in the tiny space, danced a waltz with her to imagined music. And she thought, as she danced, "Well, at least I shall not be bored with you."

By the middle of the morning they had passed the island of Khios, and Sophia glimpsed the coast of Turkey lying eastwards. She could see small settlements—fishing villages, no doubt—and she could hear the barking of dogs. She did not mind the motion of the sea; if any­thing, it comforted her. This ceaseless rocking was like a cradling. "Do you see there, Sophia, that bay? That is where the princess Hesione was exposed to the attacks of the sea-monster sent by Neptune. Do you see the promontory of black rock? That is where Hercules saved her. There is the trench he built." There was a ridge leading inland from the promontory.

"You believe these stories, Heinrich."

"There is truth to them. We live in a hard age. An age of iron. We need these stories. We should give thanks that they survive." He went over to the rail and watched the seagulls as they flew beside the boat. "This is the path that Helle and Phryxus took when they flew on the ram with the golden fleece. How I loved that story! They crossed the Aegean Sea, as we do, north-eastwards. You did not know the region was so blessed? How could you know such things? Half the stories of the world begin here. That is why I came. See how the birds dip their wings in the current of the wind. Helle grew frightened by the waves beneath her, and fell away from the golden fleece. The water where she drowned became known as the Hellespont."

"There is no need to worry, Heinrich. I will never fall." "You have no fear of great heights?"

"I have no fear of falling. That was the cause of her distress." "You rewrite the myths of your own country! You are a splendid creature!"

An English clergyman, with a black ebony cane, was standing close to the rail of the deck; he had been listening eagerly to their conver­sation. "Do I have the great good fortune of addressing Herr Obermann?"

"You do."


Fans of historical fiction will find pleasure in reading The Fall of Troy.


Steve Hopkins, June 20, 2008



Buy The Fall of Troy

@ amazon.com

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage



Go to 2008 Book Shelf

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to The Big Book Shelf: All Reviews





*    2008 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the July 2008 issue of Executive Times


URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/The Fall of Troy.htm


For Reprint Permission, Contact:

Hopkins & Company, LLC • 723 North Kenilworth AvenueOak Park, IL 60302
Phone: 708-466-4650 • Fax: 708-386-8687

E-mail: books@hopkinsandcompany.com