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The Fall of Troy by Peter Ackroyd
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The Fall of Troy (2006)

by Peter Ackroyd

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Fall of Troy: no, not another about the Trojan War and its aftermath. This was a suspenseful novel about the archaeological excavations of the 19th century; Heinrich Obermann was a thinly-disguised Heinrich Schliemann. This was a fascinating book; it begins with the marriage of Herr Obermann with a young Greek girl, Sophia, many years younger than Obermann. They travel to Hissarlik, where Obermann feels the actual Troy has been buried. Sophia helps him in his work: she feels "if she embraced her duties with enthusiasm they ceased to be burdensome. That is why she immersed herself in Homer, and why she took pride in he excavations." She meets some of her husband's friends, none of whom are as obsessive and single-minded as Obermann. The author shows all through the novel his blindness in his twisting what he sees before him to fit 'truths' he believes about Troy; Troy is always the Troy of Homer. Sophia begins to think her husband is not what he seems; she begins to find deviousness and wants to find out the truth about him. He had a previous wife of whom he had not told her. When Obermann finds a cache of golden ornaments, so that the Turkish government does not find them, he has Sophia spirit them away to a Phrygian Greek couple he knows, to hide them. Sophia hears an odd, anguished scream--not the lady of the house. A visiting American archaeologist mysteriously dies of a fever after exploring a particular cave. After discovery of clay tablets written in an unknown language, a British archaeologist, Thornton, and expert on ancient languages, enters the picture. He makes a shocking discovers about what kind of people had probably lived in Troy. The denouement was fitting. ( )
  janerawoof | Aug 18, 2014 |
This was a lot better than I expected it to be, given it was a random find in a charity shop. The central character, Herr Obermann, is an odd one: unlikeable in his fanaticism, and yet attractive in his dedication to his ideas. The supporting characters are not so vivid, but Sophia has a quiet strength which is very appealing.

The story itself is more suspense and quiet threat than action, really. The dialogue is odd, rather stiff, because Peter Ackroyd seems to make a pretty good attempt at representing how people speak English as a second language. The writing itself is functional rather than beautiful, rather matter of fact, but not a chore to read. It does make the potential romances that could be built here rather prosaic and flat, and the whole thing feels reserved, but it works, here. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It felt like flying, may be because I practically read it in the course of two medium-length flights.

As there are many good reviews of this book, I will not extend myself too much.

Ackroyd is a master teller. He polishes the fascination that his amateur archeologist Heinrich Obermann (a.k.a. Henrich Schliemann) feels for anything Homeric to a degree of brilliance that it naturally reflects back from Obermann himself. Those people living around him, or visiting him or spying on him are drawn by his visions and enthusiasm. This fascination proves contagious to the readers too.

The plot is also ingeniously handled. The development of Obermann’s personality simultaneously spins its own threads of destiny that will lead, necessarily, to his tragic fate. But I think the final brooch to Ackroyd’s abilities goes to his skill in giving different voices to different characters. Their speech portrays their personality. Not many writers have this chameleonic ability with their pen. Julian Barnes is one of them. Simone de Beauvoir, however, failed.

The novel renewed my interest in the Troy and Schliemann excavations. I already have sitting on top of my piano a framed postcard of the so called “Agamemnon mask”, but as soon as I arrived back home after my flights/reading, I switched on my computer and browsed through the internet checking fiction with fact and looked for further readings.

This is the Agamemnon that, poor thing, has to listen to my piano practice.



Navigating through the web of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, it is immediately apparent what an extraordinary person Heinrich Schliemann was. Amongst other documents, some of his diaries are preserved. These are written in several languages, depending on where he was writing them. We have his texts in German, French, English, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Russian, Dutch, Polish and Turkish. These multifaceted written records can be seen as a proxy to his multifaceted life, abilities and personality.

But if one wants to check whether Ackroyd’s eccentric Obermann and his idiosyncratic understanding of Archaeological practices is an appropriate impersonation of Schliemann, the best is to look at the picture of Sophia (could she have had a better name?), wearing the beautiful and becoming treasures found by her husband in his excavations.



Can one have any doubts?



( )
  KalliopeMuse | Apr 2, 2013 |
A fictionalized, satirical account of Heinrich Schliemann's excavations at the site of Troy, in what is now Turkey. Schliemann is portrayed here as Heinrich Obermann, an obsessive amateur archaeologist concerned only with discovering the remnants of Homeric Troy, and to fit all the finds into his preconceived notions of what the site should reveal. No dissent will be tolerated!

As with many of his other stories, Ackroyd has taken historical details and weaved them into an engrossing narrative. A good read, as these usually are. ( )
  JBD1 | Oct 26, 2012 |
Ackroyd is a delight. This is another angle for those who loved Troy and can't get enough of it's continuing story. ( )
  Harrod | Aug 11, 2011 |
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He fell down heavily on his knees, took her hand and brought it up to his mouth.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385522908, Hardcover)

Heinrich Obermann, a celebrated German archaeologist, has uncovered the ancient ruins of Troy on a Turkish hillside. He fervently believes that his discovery will prove that the heroes of the Iliad, a work he has cherished all his life, actually existed. Sophia, Obermann’s young Greek wife, works at the site carefully preserving the ancient treasures she uncovers. But Sophia soon comes to see another side of her husband. He is mysteriously vague about his past and the wife he claims died years before. When she finds a cache of artefacts Obermann has hidden away, her suspicions about him rise, feelings that escalate when a visiting archaeologist who questions Obermann’s methods dies from a mysterious fever. The arrival of a second, equally sceptical archaeologist brings Sophia’s doubts to a head—and spurs Obermann to make even greater claims about the evidence he has found and the profound importance of his achievements.

In The Fall of Troy, Peter Ackroyd again demonstrates his ability to evoke time and place, and to transform history into compelling fiction. Like the Homeric epics that entrance Obermann, The Fall of Troy is in part accurate, in part fantastic. It is a brilliantly told story of heroes and scoundrels, human aspirations and follies, and the temptation to shape the truth to fit a passionately held belief.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:23 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

It is Peter Ackroyd's remarkable achievement, in this complex and fascinating novel, to take a figure who was already a legend in his own lifetime, and recreate him as a creature of myth; indeed, an epic hero, able to shape truth to his vision, to call on the powers of the gods still residing among the ruins of the city. His Heinrich Obermann - a name for a demigod - has one unswerving goal: all his being is concentrated on demonstrating to the world, in the teeth of general opinion to the contrary, that Homer's account of the Trojan war is a true relation of events and that the Trojan warriors were Europeans, not Asians, and of noble race. This quest - to establish the truth of what has been thought of as fable - is the central element in an intricate pattern that runs through the novel, managed by Ackroyd with great skill: a pattern of ambiguities, where opposed concepts cross their borderlines and interweave, truth merging with invention, fable with fact, the rational with the visionary. Obermann is dangerous in his passionate convictions, perhaps even capable of murder.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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