cover image The Memoirs of Helen of Troy

The Memoirs of Helen of Troy

Amanda Elyot, . . Crown, $23.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-307-20998-6

Actress and author Leslie Carroll (Miss Match ) checks in under an assumed name for her debut historical. Writing for her abandoned daughter, Hermione, in a rich but sometimes overwrought prose, Helen of Troy recalls her girlhood as a Spartan princess. Her stepfather, Tyndareus, doesn't love her (Helen is the daughter of Leda and Zeus); her sister, Clytemnestra, is jealous of her; her mother introduces her to the old ways of "the Goddess" and then kills herself. Helen grows into a lovely young woman; at 14, she's kidnapped by Theseus. At first miffed he has done so for ransom (she fancies herself the prize), she later falls in love with him, and when her brothers come to save her, she's pregnant with his child. Giving her daughter to Clytemnestra and married off to Menelaus—a rocky union from the start—Helen then falls for visiting Paris. When she runs away with him, it's almost convenient for Menelaus and his brother, Agamemnon—the perfect reason to attack Troy. Though divinely conceived, this Helen is skeptical of those she calls "the sky gods"; she's a study in contrasts generally, all cool analysis and white-hot passion. The problem is that she's not quite convincing as either one or the other, though the story is engrossing. (Oct.)