Claire Heywood, a scholar of the ancient world, brings to life the story of two sisters, Klytemnestra and Helen, in Daughters of Sparta who were pivotal in the demise of Troy. At the heart of this destruction was Helen, whose beauty was know around the known world and according to legend the cause of the Trojan War. Claire explains in her author’s note, “Daughters of Sparta therefore weaves archaeological reality with mythological tradition, but also imagines a new story to fill in the gaps left by each of these frameworks. At its heart the novel is not even a retelling of the war itself, but of the private lives of Helen and Klytemnestra, two characters whom I found to be either inadequately or unfairly treated across the ancient sources.”
Daughters of Sparta is a gripping story in its honest depiction of the lives and status of women, the cultural norms and expectations, and the brutality that occurred in all levels of life of ancient society. Klytemnestra and Helen have an affectionate and close relationship. This bond weaves its way throughout the story and is a connection that keeps them grounded and focused during many of the trials they face. Told through the eyes and minds of both sisters the perspectives are varied yet convey a common theme that women were only valued for their beauty and ability to produce children. Even as privileged royalty, their life is difficult and oppressive, and their journey will keep you engaged, challenge your ideas of Greek history and have you contemplating the differences between your life and theirs.
Claire’s background as a scholar gives Daughters of Sparta a mosaic of details on which to embed a dramatic and fascinating story. The legend of the Trojan War and the beautiful Helen is widely known, yet Helen has always been just a prop or catalyst in the retelling. Hearing from her and her older sister, in this fictional retelling, brings new life to an ancient story. The foil to the sisters, found in the kings fighting over this one woman, dampens the glory given to these men and reveals the savagery that often accompanies power and control. I love a great fictional adaptation of a historical event and Clair nailed in with Daughters of Sparta.