Two sisters parted. Two women blamed. Two stories reclaimed.
-Daughters of Sparta
[ About the Book ]
For millennia, two women have been blamed for the fall of a mighty civilisation – but now it’s time to hear their side of the story . . .
As princesses of Sparta, Helen and Klytemnestra have known nothing but luxury and plenty. With their high birth and unrivalled beauty, they are the envy of all of Greece.
Such privilege comes at a high price, though, and their destinies are not theirs to command. While still only girls they are separated and married off to legendary foreign kings Agamemnon and Menelaos, never to meet again. Their duty is now to give birth to the heirs society demands and be the meek, submissive queens their men expect.
But when the weight of their husbands’ neglect, cruelty and ambition becomes too heavy to bear, they must push against the constraints of their sex to carve new lives for themselves – and in doing so make waves that will ripple throughout the next three thousand years.
[ Guest review by Katie Hearne ]
Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood will be published July 22nd with Hodder & Staughton and is described as ‘perfect for readers of Circe and Ariadne, a vivid and illuminating retelling of the Siege of Troy that tells the story of mythology’s most vilified women from their own mouths at long last’ I am absolutely delighted to welcome my own daughter, Katie, as my guest reviewer today sharing her thoughts of Daughters of Sparta, so without further ado…
“How stupid she had been. Womanhood was strange and painful and humiliating, and there was no going back.”
Daughters of Sparta is a heart-wrenching re-telling of sisters, Helen and Klytemnestra of Sparta, and the prejudices they faced as women in Ancient Greece. This story follows the lives of the sisters and the choices they made that ultimately led to war over the young Spartan heiress Helen (more commonly known as Helen of Troy). Unlike most novels, Heywood includes stories from the girls’ perspective and the relationships they had as Greek royalty.
Daughters of Sparta gave me a better understanding of the relationships the girls had with their parents along with the general power dynamic of the palace. Klytemnestra and her mother had a strong bond between them as she was her firstborn and the rightful heiress. However, due to certain circumstances, their father, Lord Tyndareos, decided that Helen was the rightful heir to the Spartan throne. Klytemnestra, the original heiress, is then married off to the king of Mycanae, Lord Agamemnon.
As a married woman, she is not allowed to travel and visit her family. Throughout the novel, Helen and Klytemnestra long to see one another again.
“In her heart she knew it was the last time she would ever see her family”
Women had little control over their lives in Ancient Greece, which is particularly evident here. The girls had little to no say in who they were to be betrothed to. Lord Tyndareos even threw a competition for Helen’s hand in marriage, but she was still unable to choose. Once the girls were of eligible age to marry, there was no hesitation. Allies were more important than love.
“Without protest or violence, Helen had finally been won”
An overall sense of foreshadowing is clear here as most readers are aware of what has yet to come.
After they were married off, any happiness they may have experienced with their new husbands vanished. Unfortunately, they were thrown aside, seen as nothing more than an accomplishment.
“Helen of Sparta, the unlovable beauty”
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me a deeper insight into the lives of these brave women and the conditions they faced. Through all the hardships, they stayed strong and fierce even when they felt deflated or hopeless. I highly recommend this to anyone who has an interest in Greek Mythology. Claire Heywood gives us a fresh perspective from the viewpoint of Helen and Klytemnestra of Sparta and how they lived their lives.
[ Bio ]
Claire Heywood is a scholar of the ancient world, having gained a 1st Class BA in Classical Civilisation and an MA with Distinction in Ancient Visual and Material Culture, both from the University of Warwick. Her deep understanding of the ancient world, coupled with her fascination with women’s forgotten voices, inspired her to retell the legend of the Trojan War from the perspective of two key female characters. She is a former professional tour guide at the Roman Baths museum in Bath and now writes full-time.
Daughters of Sparta is her first novel.
She is currently doing research for her second novel, which will also be set in the ancient world and feature different female perspectives.
Twitter ~ @ClaireEHeywood