A while back I found a really good bunch of advertisements in the back of a Carolyn Wells mystery novel–maybe The White Alley?–one of which was for The Little Iliad, by Maurice Hewlett. The ad was particularly funny because it promised both a modern retelling of the Iliad and a happy ending. I came across a copy of the book at the place where I was staying this weekend, and in spite of a full complement of family reunion-y activities, I managed to finish it before we left on Sunday morning.
I started off by not liking it much. There was a friend-of-the-main-character sort of narrator, which often turns out badly–that kind of character is so often a nonentity, and an excuse to use first-person narration in a story that doesn’t want it. The main character he was friends with was Hector, and aside from the danger of naming characters after their Greek and Trojan counterparts, he looked like he might be really annoying.
And then it turned out all right. Hector is kind of silly, but the narrator is well aware of that–it is clear that he knows all of Hector’s faults, and while he is very fond of him, he doesn’t take him too seriously. From which it will be obvious that the narrator is a pretty decent character too, and he becomes involved enough in the story that he isn’t just a narrator of events, but a participant. As for the naming thing, the Helen character is named Helena and the Paris character’s name begins with a P, but that’s it. And the story doesn’t adhere too closely to the Iliad, although that was obvious from the promise of a happy ending. Read the rest of this entry ?