The new year is almost here, and I felt what better than a book recommendation to help you bring in the new year. The Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B. Cooney, is the story of an unknown Princess from a small island in the mediterranean sea who has a direct impact on the outcomes of the Trojan war. I love this story for its transformational message. The young Princess Anaxandra, taken from her home at the fragile age of 6 as treasure for a pirate, faces the murder and torture of those who would protect her, until she falls in to the kingdom of Helen of Sparta. Anaxandra must take new names, and change herself in order to survive the pirate mentality of the mediterranean, and she does so with grace and impossible strength.
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I picked this book up at the apparating library at the Granger Leadership Conference in Rhode Island in 2016, so it fit the category: “a book you got on vacation.” I was drawn to the beautiful illustration on the cover, which is different than the one picture here as it is a much older printing. I feel the old art better expresses Anaxandra’s desperation and will to survive than the modern cover. I also love stories about troy and have always been a fan of historical fiction and mythology.
As I mentioned before, the story follows Anaxandra as she grows and moves through numerous Greek Islands befriending Kings, Princesses, and slaves alike. The reader learns about Greek culture, government, knowledge and God’s, from the perspective of a child who had been previously isolated and wasn’t accustomed to standard gender norms. Eventually, after many hardships she finds herself a guest in the palace of King Menelaus and Queen Helen of Sparta and we witness the devastation of Helen’s betrayal as she pillages, filanders and flees with Troy’s youngest son, Prince Paris. Anaxandra continues to flourish as she protects Helen’s children and proves herself spirited and capable despite all odds, even directly impacting the outcomes of the Trojan war.
I loved this depiction of Helen of Troy. The perspective of a distrusting, homeless princess sheds an interesting light on the beauty who launched a thousand ships. Here we see Helen as vindictive, self-indulgent and plotting, not the accosted princess of epic tales. Setting the beloved queen as the villain adds an interesting twist to an otherwise overtold story. Anaxandra herself is poised in her fear and uncertainty, she is brave, strong, and curious; all traits which prove both a blessing and a curse. I love how the Greeks relationships with the gods are portrayed. You see this often in similar novels, the one that comes most easily to mind would be Troy by Adele Geras, but it still interests me when characters speak to God’s as if they are present and capable of impacting the day to day activities.
The portrayal of Cassandra was also very eloquent. While she seems crazy to her family, outsiders like Anaxandra and her nurse are able to understand her words as truth and she is used as a great plot tool, creating suspense and acting as a compliment and companion to Anaxandra. Where Cassandra can only speak the truth but it’s never to be beloved, Anaxandra seems to always lie and always be believed.
This is a great example of historical fiction, myth fiction and a generally great ya novel. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun easy read or with an interest in Greek mythology or the pre Trojan war era.
If you have read this book and are interested in other retellings of the Trojan War check out The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley which is a retelling of Cassandra’s story.
If you are interested in retellings of other historical badass princesses check out Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings, true retellings of historical Princesses who do not fit societal expectations. This book is published by Quirk Novels, the publishers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and is laugh out loud funny.
If you want something more historically accureate, Queen Victoria’s Mysterious Daughter: A Biography of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley
What other books have you read that sounds like this? I love this genre and would appreciate your recommendations below. Have you read any of my recommendation? What did you think? Please comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.