cover image The Fall of Troy

The Fall of Troy

Peter Ackroyd, . . Doubleday/Talese, $23 (212pp) ISBN 978-0-385-52290-8

Whitbread and Guardian Fiction Prize–winner Ackroyd has made a career out of charting London’s history, most recently in The Lambs of London and Shakespeare: The Biography . Here he turns to old Troy. In telegram- and steamboat-era Athens, the Greek Sophia Chrysanthis hastily weds German archeologist Johann Ludwig Heinrich Julius Obermann, mainly out of desire for an Indiana Jones–style adventure. Sophia quickly finds, however, that life with Johann approximates the Trojan excavation site (outside the Turkish village of Hissarlik) that Johann mines so lovingly: one jaw-dropping discovery follows another. But while Johann interprets the antiquities he finds using the Iliad , Sophia is left without a guide to her enigmatic husband’s true self. Unfortunately, although her predicament effectively mirrors the plight of Helen of Troy, and although the riddle of Johann’s identity is the very reflection of the Trojan horse’s portentousness, Sophia spends the greater part of the novel wincing and rationalizing. And a book’s worth of calculation is undone at the end when Ackroyd raises hallowed dust, but clouds the issues at hand. (Nov.)