Book Jacket

 

rank  Editors Pick
word count 20812
date submitted 16.03.2010
date updated 12.08.2013
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historic...
classification: universal
incomplete

The Girl from Ithaca

Cherry Gregory

Neomene of Ithaca, younger sister of Odysseus, reveals what Homer never knew: a woman's view of the Trojan War.

 

A Spartan war ship sails into Ithaca and two men arrive to demand the fulfilment of an oath. When her brother Odysseus joins the Greek alliance against Troy, fourteen-year-old Neomene is thrust into a world she knows little about.

Amid the secrecy and plots, Neomene befriends the women who are forced to survive alongside warriors such as Achilles, Ajax and Agamemnon. But as the war drags on and heroes die, she'll need to face dangers vastly different from the battles on the Trojan Plain.

Readers not familiar with the tales of Troy will find The Girl from Ithaca a lively story in its own right, and also an exciting introduction to Mycenaean culture, the Greek myths and the characters and events of the Trojan War. For those who already know Homer's version, read on to discover the heroes as you've never seen them before.

It all starts on the island of Ithaca...

Completed 80, 000 words. The second book in this series, The Walls of Troy, is also complete at 90, 000 words.

 
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, achilles, agamemnon, ancient greece, ancient history, battles, bronze age, brother, family, first-person, friendship, goddess athena, gods, hector, ...

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HarperCollins Wrote



The Girl From Ithaca Review

Summary:

This is a retelling of the events of the Trojan War as detailed in ‘The Iliad’. Neomene, sister of Odysseus [not present in the original myth], is forced to leave her home in Ithaca and travel with Phoebus and Odysseus as they forge an alliance with the Greeks against Troy. Neomene must befriend the women who love and live with the great warriors, from the tragic Iphigenia, cruelly used as a human sacrifice, to the clever Io. The book gives a very different perspective of the legendary events of Homer’s epic.

First Impressions

This is historical fiction and would sit alongside Rosemary Sutcliffe, and a more YA Mary Renault. This novel would probably suit a young adult market based on the age of the protagonist, who is fourteen.
This is an extremely strong idea, but the author needs a little help with execution.

Weaknesses:

‘The Girl from Ithaca’ is over-populated with characters. Homer’s Iliad is a narrative epic and as such, it is concerned with plot, rather than with character. Indeed, most of the heroes of the Iliad would already have been well-known to their audience. A modern retelling cannot assume the same level of familiarity. In order to remain true to the original, it must be tempting to use every character mentioned in the original, but the result is overwhelming. We meet too many characters who appear only momentarily, and the result is that the novel feels unfocused and cluttered.
Books like Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Penelopiad’ successfully rehabilitate ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ by focusing on a single character or episode. The same is also true of classics such as Shakespeare’s ‘Troilus and Cressida’ or Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’. You have chosen to create an original protagonist, which is interesting, but you then have to really focus in on her development and adolescence, choosing to surround her with only a few, memorable characters. The story of her friendship with Iphigenia and the subsequent deceit and sacrifice would make a compelling and accessible YA novel in its own right. Very few storytellers have ever tried to emulate Homer’s scope, and it is not advisable.

You have certainly created an authentic Mycenaean feel, attending to details of dress and diet. However, it might be useful to read widely around historical fiction to get a sense of how to create an immersive atmosphere. I would particularly recommend spending a bit more time over your description of place and objects, taking instruction an author such as Philippa Gregory who is especially skilled at making her readers feel as if they can touch everything.

Finally, the novel needs a tighter focus. Are you attempting to illustrate Neomene’s development? Is this novel about the overwhelming cruelty of the Trojan War, or about moments of beauty and love within it? At the moment this feels like a straight re-narration, but if you find where your interest lies thematically, you will find the heart of the novel.

Strengths:
This is a very brave idea, and one which might well develop into a series. The Trojan War is an excellent universe to write in and gives vast scope. And, as the recent success of Madeline Miller’s ‘The Song of Achilles’ has proven, there is still a reader appetite for this period and these heroes. You are a confident writer, capable of moving a plot along well, and keeping a tight rein on a number of co-existing storylines. You also have a gift for moments of acute observation which humanise sweeping narratives - with more of these, you could write very engaging, human novels.

Additionally, Neomene is an appealing heroine, who is age-appropriate, brave, funny and immediately likeable. She would provide an excellent entry point to a series – in some ways she is reminiscent of Lyra in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights Trilogy.

Verdict:
You have a very promising idea here; this is just not quite the right novel to best communicate this idea. Condensing the characters and scope will create a series of strong narratives, which could become highly marketable historical fiction in the YA bracket. There is a long way to go, however. But, please persevere, as you have a promising work on your hands.



HoosierTony wrote 391 days ago

"The Girl from Ithaca" is Neomene, the kid sister of Odysseus, and, wow, does she get herself into some adventures! She gets away from the hinterland island of Ithaca and manages to hit all the high marks of the events of the Trojan War, yet it never seems contrived or forced. The author makes a number of very good decisions along the way and so the narrative is natural. And also heart-breaking, humorous and exciting. I recommend this for anyone who likes Greek literature, ancient history, mythology or just a ripping good yarn.

HoosierTony
Kongball

Emma.L.H. wrote 428 days ago

Wow, Cherry, what a read. This is one of the most well-written books I've read on this site-- truly. I've read a few from this era but this is top of the heap. I must admit, I rolled my eyes a little when I began reading and saw it was in first person. I've come across some shockers on here; it's rare to find one done well. Yours is. Nothing sounded out of place or incorrect-- great job.

Neomene's an incredibly strong MC. In fact, every one of your characters has depth and is very easily visualised. Your dialogue is also spot on and I like your descriptions of the town. You have clear control over your writing; despite the descriptions being rich, we aren't bogged down with detail.

This is very polished. I only noticed a few minor issues:

Dark haired (boy) should be hyphenated.

Fourteen year old girl & ten year old sister should be fourteen-year-old girl & ten-year-old sister.

No other problems. I thoroughly enjoyed this and when Pete's book has made the ED, you'll be taking its place. There's nothing more I can think of to say, I really like this. Highly starred for now, and I wish you all the best with it. Well done.

Tornbridge wrote 440 days ago

The girl from Ithaca

Dear Cherry.
A sublime opening to the story. Perfect set-up of world, danger and character. This is so hard to do with such a broad canvas and range in readers and I think you managed it perfectly. Nice to see a woman taking the lead, bold and works well. I love the paragraph when Menelaus arrives and disembarks from his ship. After all the tension from the run home and set up etc it’s perfectly played out.

It feels authentic in tone and dialog and the prose are neither laboured nor verbose.

I never read other reader's notes but I did this time, as I’ve never seen a book with so many. I think that speaks volumes, Cherry. I wish you all the best with this, it’s destined to be on a bookshelf.

Tornbridge
The Washington Adventure

Edentity wrote 495 days ago

This is beautifully done, it really is. I have a really soft spot for the Greek myths - read loads of adaptations when I was young. Recently read another reworking, aaghh, can't remember the name of it - Trojan war job...Achilles...but actually it didn't really float my boat. But this is such a smart idea - just love the perspective of the young sister.
Did Odysseus really have a sister? I found myself wondering how old he was - I may have missed that (but if it's not there, might be good to drop it in). I also found myself wondering (having forgotten, if I ever knew) why he was ruling and not his father but you drop that in perfectly.
Seriously, this is just fabulous. My pad (where I normally write down things that make me pause in the reading) is conspicuously bare.
Can't fault it - enough description to make us experience her world, tidbits of backstory delicately dropped in so we understand what's going on; dialogue feels real; characters feel real. Just lovely. Surprised you're not published with this, truth to tell. Why not?
Starred to the max and will back when I get a chance (I like to leave stuff on my shelf for a good while, so there is a backlog). :)

faith rose wrote 506 days ago

Dear Cherry,

This is absolutely beautiful! I read your first three chapters, and I honestly cannot wait to read more. This story brought back memories of all the literature I read in college as an English major. Greek myths, the Trojan War, and Odysseus himself were never my favorites, but you changed that today. Truly, you did! There is such a richness in your writing...you have brought these characters to life in every way.

I loved how you opened your story with action. There was no unecessary backstory...I just felt immediately caught up in Neomene's run to the palace. There were so many names to mention, yet I did not feel lost for a moment as to "who was who." You have so carefully mixed backstory and history into a magnificent, engaging piece. I truly was swept away by your story.

I also love the authenticity of Neomene. She is real in every way... from her anger toward Palamedes to her annoyance with her mother (ie: "...but I nodded, hoping to avoid a repeat..."). Really great writing!

I am a huge fan! Giving you all 6 stars right now. This will stay on my WL in hopes of giving it some shelf time soon!

All the very best,
Faith Rose
Now To Him

Daniel Escurel Occeno wrote 251 days ago

Congratulations! – Daniel Escurel Occeno (The Height of Boys)

Elizabeth Kathleen wrote 300 days ago

I've read your first chapter and it was very well written, but you don't need me to tell you that since you made it to the Desk! You have been blessed with an ability to write and I wanted to read more, but it's after 12:30 in the morning and that's what's holding me back! Glad I got to read this!
God bless you!!!
Elizabeth Kathleen
"If Children are Cheaper by the Dozen, Can I Get a Discount on Six?"
"The Sticks and Stones of Hannah Jones"

Edward Gardner wrote 303 days ago

There's a nice contrast between Chapters 21 and 22. Chapter 21 really is a rainy day chapter, as we're whiling away the time in a camp closed over by a ten day storm. Then the tension is sprung on us again in Chapter 22, reminding us of Neomene's precarious situation. There are even some echoes of Iphigenia sounding as Odysseus's life is threatened and Neomene learns of Agamemnon's plot with Calchas.

nits:
Ch 21
Antilochus put his arm around my shoulder and gently took my cloak.{missing space I think}Thrasymedes made room...
Ch 22
Every man nodded{.} "Now, Phoebus is outside the hut..."

Looking forward to the rest!

Edward Gardner wrote 314 days ago

Chapters 19 and 20
Good handling of tension in Chapter 19, with Neomene learning details of the battle and worrying for her brother as the wounded are brought in and the soldiers return company by company. But the highlight of these chapters is definitely after the battle, when Odysseus tells Neomene and Elissa about the curse on the house of Atreus. Nice addition having them a bit drunk at the time. As you should know I like having my characters tell stories while intoxicated, though, being a foodie, I'm curious to know what they ate :-)

These chapters read quite quickly, and now I've only got two more until I reach the end of your posts! Are you putting up any new ones?
Edward

Edward Gardner wrote 325 days ago

Once again nice to be back with The Girl from Ithaca for a few chapters (16 -18)

Ch 16
Intriguing chapter with a brief war council that leads to Neomene going to see the Amazons. This episode further develops Neomene's character - she's curious but not interested in taking frivolous risks. (Yet, as we see later, she seems to be seen as the ringleader.)
'It'd be interesting to see the warrior women, but I'd didn't want to cross the Trojan land...'

Ch 17
Shocking scene at the start with Palamedes, and telling interaction between Neomene and her brother about Ithacan trickery. Neomene isn't naive, is she?
Loved the exchange between Belus and Diomedes's charioteer - How many heads were on that dog, anyway?
This chapter seems to have a few different episodes. They're all flawless, but I feel the chapter would read better as two chapters, maybe split right before the chariot race.

Ch 18
A chapter with a nice tense scene at the start, moving into that part in the healer's tent, which added fascinating details. I thought Machaon had some witty things to say about the practice of healing being about reputation: '...it's all very easy. Save a man, and he's in your debt forever. If the man dies he'll not be around to complain.'

K.L. Candela wrote 331 days ago

Rainfall and a cup of coffee accompanying this riveting read. This so smoothly drew me in and kept me completely involved from the beginning of the chapter to the end. I already feel like i 'know' the characters - or 'like' the characters - and want to know more and more. Must go pour another cup of coffee and read on....

K.L. Candela
The Angry Mother

Edward Gardner wrote 335 days ago

Reading on from Chapters 12 - 15
Feels good coming back to the story. I found it quite easy to pick up again after being away for a while. Once again I'm immediately enjoying the side of the story we don't get in the Iliad.

Ch 12 read quick and tense with Neomene's commentary on the duel. I especially liked her comment near the end about not understanding the warrior's code of respect - how much sense does it make to try to kill each other all day and then exchange gifts like friends!

Ch 13. Nice details about the women talking while doing their chores, hearing bits of rumors about spies and concerns over food lasting. Once again a nicely rendered war council where the leaders decide to start raiding to gather supplies, peppered with Neomene's interest in Nestor's son.

Ch 14. Nice plot progression here, with quite a lot happening. The scene with Neomene rescuing Elissa makes me wonder if Neomene will ever speak more directly about the experience of the domestic / sex slaves, or if this topic is taboo even among her women friends in the camp. As the chapter continues we have Neomene aware of her brother's plans, waiting anxiously for the outcome, and then thinking uncomfortable thoughts about Agamemnon's potential betrayal. I liked how the chapter ends with her memories of Black Ear and comment about Odysseus preferring the company of pigs to other kings and warriors. You're very consistent with details relating to Ithaca being a kind of backwater, which is easy to forget when we have Homer composing an epic about him.

As I was reading through this chapter, particularly where you have Neomene's observations of the camp's night sounds, the men's movements, finishing chores or playing games of dice, I thought this chapter would be a good place for another paragraph or two describing the feel of the camp around sunset or early evening. There's something enchanting about that kind of environment - the crowded camp falling gradually asleep with a few lingering sounds of activity. I think even one more paragraph about it would add some enticing atmosphere to this chapter in particular.

Ch 15. This is the stuff we completely miss in the epic poem - details like trading apples for sewing, games of dice, skipping stones, banter between a brother and sister. You fill in some nice atmosphere about the camp in this chapter. I think I would have put in something about the smell of the sea air here, because Neomene is really giving us a feel for the place and that makes me hungry for more and more...

Typos:
Ch 13: 'didn't want want our hut tainted by Agamemnon and the others...'
Ch 14: 'I watched Medon march way and then turned to my brother'

Edward
The Black Dionysia

Edward Gardner wrote 346 days ago

Chapters 10 & 11
These chapters were tense with action and debate and I raced through them. The narrative is more terse here than in most of the rest of the book, but this suits the content.
I liked your characterization of the range of characters, particularly how you introduce Ajax and Antilochus. I think one of the hardest things about writing a story like this is the number of important characters with similar and unusual names that have to stand out as distinct from each other, but you pull it off well without giving a lot of extraneous details. But in your account there are two story lines proceeding at the same time - the one we're already familiar with from the Iliad and the one from the perspective of the women involved, who are observing the men, trying to determine what is going to happen, and perhaps try to influence some of the events (though at this moment in the story one feels Neomene is primarily only watching and thinking.

typo
first par of ch 10: "...but I didn't get chance to talk to her."

KMac23 wrote 353 days ago

Cherry,
I’ve read through chapter eleven and hope to find time to sit down to really savor the rest of this. This is a book I would buy and hope your review leads to something special for your book.

I love Neomene’s character, her heart and strength. When accompanying Iphigenia in her marriage to the prince, things are not as they seem and Neomene stands up for the young girl’s life. This act really established the type character she was, willing to lay down her life for others and not back down against impossible odds.

You have a really smooth writing style, not overdone. I am enjoying the story very much and love the warlike feel of the era. I feel as if I’m living in these times and love how this came from the viewpoint of Neomene, the young Ithacan girl.

Troy could be summed up as rich and impenetrable in its glorious days. Your descriptions are amazing and brought me right into the city, past the walls and down the streets. The pain and anger of Menelaus’ loss of Helen struck emotions in me.

You described Helen as the elusive beauty she was and left a bit of a mystery as to why she ran off. Never a slow moment in this book. I congratulate your success in getting it to the desk and look forward to finishing it when I have more time for it.

Kara
A Gate Called Beautiful

KMac23 wrote 353 days ago

Cherry,
I stopped in to say I just started reading The Girl From Ithaca and will definitely finish your chapters as I am loving the feel of the story and the young girl, Neomene. I can't believe I let this one go for so long with out reading it as I love Historicals. There is a natural feel to both the dialogue and the description. I like how the plot changes as I read. At first I believed Neomene was running to warn her brother of an attack. Then I find her and her brother carefully orchestrating events planned for this meeting with Menelaus. There is a lot left to think upon. I'm looking forward to see where this is going. I will read more and comment again.

Kara
A Gate Called Beautiful

Kestrelraptorial wrote 355 days ago

I remember reading about the Trojan War some years ago, and I’m vastly enjoying this new perspective. You have an amazing blend of the original characters along with your own.

Edward Gardner wrote 356 days ago

Great reading through Chapter 8 and 9. These chapters flew by - especially 8 with its tense scene in the palace.

Chapter 8
Where Neomene encounters Trojans for the first time, comparing their appearance and ways of living to those of the generally simpler and more straightforward Ithacans. While both Neomene and her brother observe the impressive defenses of Troy, Neomene is also impressed by things like the glittering paving stones on the roads. I like that bit. I also like that she keeps her head about the Trojans not being the enemy - she's taking her part in the peace effort seriously. Here Neomene makes an interesting comment about how it might be better if gods and mortals couldn't see each other. I am wondering if this thought comes from observing the sacrifice of Iphigenia, or if there are other reasons she thinks this way. I think if I were in her place I'd be more than a little scared of the gods seeing me after watching that. Your account of the meeting with Priam and his sons on the one hand and Helen on the other had me mesmerized and immediately turning to the next chapter. In the course of it you make the reader feel Neomene's powerlessness and frustration very well.

Chapter 9
Neomene poses an interesting question near the start - wondering what game the gods were playing and why the stakes were so high (Helen on the one hand / Troy on the other). This comment made me think of the question people throughout history have asked, in the middle of some tragic event brought on by apparent madness by people. It made me realize for the first time in my reading (obvious as it is) that the Iliad hasn't been composed yet, nor is there any other agreed upon interpretation about what is going on in Heaven through all this. Neomene is in the middle of it and clueless about which theories and theologies will come out on top at the end. Also by now I'm getting to know Neomene as a narrator, and I like the way she doesn't give a surplus of internal reflection on the unfolding events. Instead you use the way she says things to express how she's feeling about them. Like when Philoctetes is bitten by a snake and she cares for him, then suggests to her brother that he send the Ithacan Thaddeus to tend him on Lemnos. This is all we need to observe to know the sorts of thoughts and feelings she is having at the time.

I smiled when I read Neomene's account of Odysseus and his men making camp on an island, as it felt like a premonition of some scene in the Odyssey.

One comment on style. I thought the phrase "Once we'd the warm food in our hands..." doesn't sound as much like Neomene because I haven't noticed her narrating with an apostrophe-d in this way, but rather forming out words more carefully. Not a big deal of course - but it made me pause and reread it a couple times.

Edward Gardner wrote 356 days ago

Chapter 7 (Bears and the Moon)
I like the range of mythological references that run through this chapter, as well as the variety of ways you present them. All of this is in keeping with how for these people the legends about gods and heroes would have been embedded into the landscape and starscape. I particularly enjoyed the way Neomene falls asleep listening to the stories told to the steady rowing of the oars - something about that particular passage stayed with me through the rest of the chapter. Given the other mythic references (and the nighttime voyage under her brilliance) this is a natural place to have Neomene's thoughts turn to Artemis, goddess of the Moon, and try to understand the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Very nice chapter.

couple typos:
"his face illumined by swinging light of the torch"
"it was still dark when I woke, but with not with the full blackness of night"

Kathryn Woodall wrote 357 days ago

Read up to chapter ten. Love it so far, you have made the ancient world come alive.

One question: why is Neomene sent alone with Phoebus in chapter four? Shouldn't an unmarried sister of a King should have at least one female attendant with her?

Also, in chapter nine Calchus/Calchas/Cachas are used when Io and Neomene are watching the priest about to perform a sacrifice (I'm assuming his name is Calchas?)

Kathryn Woodall
Dragoncourt

Mitfordgirl wrote 358 days ago

I love this. I should be reading it in print already, not on this site. The very best of luck with it.
Caroline

Kathy K G wrote 358 days ago

Read five chapters, stopped long enough to give it every star I can and place it carefully on my bookshelf. Now I'm diving in for more!

Kathy

Edward Gardner wrote 359 days ago

Another two chapters of great reading:

Chapter 5
Here the tension continues to build as Neomene and Iphigenia prepare to leave for Iphigenia's "wedding". Various comments like "some husbands didn't allow their wives to travel, especially when they were expecting a child. And some wives were always expecting a child," "she's clever at knowing what the men are planning" as well as the advice given Neomene along with the knife all contribute to a general feeling of the precariousness of these women's lives. I also like the glimpses into Iphigenia's life - like her relationship with Rhea and expectation of having children. The bit about Ithacans having goats legs injects a momentarily lightening moment of humor into a chapter that is otherwise so tragic, knowing what is about to happen to Iphigenia.

And nice use of the changing birdsongs to indicate movement. You're just letting the tension keep building now... And then they arrive, and right after Iphigenia meets Achilles things start to crumble rapidly. This whole chapter is well told, but these last parts leading up to and culminating in Iphigenia's sacrifice and the aftermath for Neomene are best of all. These show excellent control of timing - you could rush ahead at various points, or give too much away too quickly, but instead you let the tragedy unfold through layers of confusion, obscurity and desperate but useless conflict. By the end I had tears in my eyes.

first typos:
"They'd be no mothers or grandfathers or wives."
"...for any Ithacan I ka man I could trust"

Persuasion
A somewhat different chapter, which seemed a little shorter than previous ones. It contains an important development, though, with Neomene cleverly proving herself the daughter of Odysseus by convincing him to bring her along on a peace envoy to Troy. This is an interesting reversal of Agamemnon's own deceptive use of Neomene in that she argues her presence will work to legitimately demonstrate the desire of Menelaus for peace. As you know, my story also concerns the curse on the house of Atreus, so I am quite interested in the ways you've worked that into the events, particularly the mention of the fallen lion.

Edward Gardner
The Black Dionysia

Edward Gardner wrote 362 days ago

Chapter 4
Coming back to this chapter I particularly enjoyed the feeling in that first paragraph. I've been on a few rowing trips at sea and the first couple paragraphs convey well the mix of sensations and emotions: the straining of the oars, the feelings of freedom, the desire to breathe deeply the sea air, the surge forward with every collective stroke and then the sudden burst of power and movement when the sails are unfurled and the oarsmen sit back and stretch. Very nice way to start this chapter.

By the time they've reached the mainland Neomene has taken on a bit more confidence with Phoenix, both in handling the horses and talking about Troy's defenses and markets. Again, another believable and accessible dialogue, and it subtly starts filling in the wider atmosphere. I like this method of description - having something described indirectly within a conversation - as it adds another layer of storytelling and softens descriptions with a particular human voice and context.

Nice description of the palace - I especially liked the detail of all the bull imagery and Neomene's fright over the Minotaur.
I also like the detail of Clytemnestra offering the feast for Iphigenia in compensation for Agamemnon's disregard for custom and disrespect for the people who sustain his kingdom. Again, I don't know if you found references to this feast somewhere in the source material or if you invented it but it serves as a believable demonstration of Agamemnon's personality from a domestic, rather than military, perspective. And the feast provides the perfect setting for the quick, almost wordless bond that develops between Iphigenia and Neomene at the feast and little details like Iphigenia's enjoyment of the acrobats and admiration for one of the boys. The chapter ends with me feeling very curious about the next day, and how Neomene will be impacted by its events.

more to follow soon...

Edward Gardner wrote 364 days ago

Cherry,

Beautiful and energetic writing. Retellings of mythology are among my favorite types of stories, and this one is well written with a good rhythm of movement and observation. I've only read into Chapter 4 so far but I wanted to post something this morning. Rather than point out all the strengths in your storytelling I'm just going to mention what I felt to be the best bits.

Chapter 1
I like how the story starts with this race across the island, portraying Neomene as energetic, independent, plus it develops some atmosphere for us - we get to see the island and its activity.
I got shivers with your line - "Lady Neomene, one day I'll be the fastest runner in Ithaca. Then I will help you again." And I loved the way you ended the chapter: "And may the goddess Athena guide you in our deceit."

Chapter 2
Liked the tension developing in this chapter - and you do a good job getting us to start loathing Agamemnon and his agent Palamedes.

Chapter 3
This is a great idea - having Odysseus's sister accompany Iphigenia. I don't know if you made this up or found it in the source texts, but it works great to bring Neomene's perspective into the events. And now that I've written about her myself, any mention of Iphigenia's story brings on the shivers. The chapter also works on several levels, with Neomene's journey serving as a coming of age experience for her. I especially like the buildup to the journey with all the advice from the older women.

Chapter 4 (just starting now but running out of time for the day's reading)
Enjoyed Neomene's perplexity about talking to Phoenix - especially loved "I was on the verge of trying him out on apples". Made me laugh.

This is delightful stuff and good luck!

Edward
The Black Dionysia

Oceana wrote 365 days ago

Cherry,
Normally I stay away from works on the editor's desk because I figure they don't need the comments or the backing, but this one was so good, well, I couldn't help myself. I really hope this makes it into print!

Oceana
P.S. If you have the time I'd love any suggestions you could make on my work in progress Philo & Livia
http://authonomy.com/books/51539/philo-livia/

Kevin Bergeron wrote 365 days ago

I'm up to Chapter 5, and enjoying this very much. The pov of the fourteen year old girl Neomene provides a fresh and engaging perspective. I'll surely read on as time allows. I'm not very familiar with the Odysseus stories and so I don't know what's going to happen at the wedding. I suspect some sort of treachery will occur, and Palamedes may be behind it. Or maybe something else.

One small suggestion is that you might add a sentence to introduce Iphigenia. Neomene describes her as a "young girl." Then a couple of sentences later Neomene tells us that "Iphigenia was shaking." Of course I knew that the young girl was probably Iphigenia, but there's no indication how Neomene knew.

A very appealing story so far, The voice and character of Neomene is very true to life and she's also likable. What reader would not want to travel along with her on her adventures?



Daniel Nathan Horn wrote 366 days ago

What an intriguing idea, and what a fantastic execution of that concept. Exquisitely plotted. I'll definitely be reading more of this.

Debra H wrote 370 days ago

Hello Cherry:
The girl from Ithaca caught my attention the day I signed up on Authonomy. I read the first chapter immediately and intended to come back and read more. What led to that decision?
The pitch is pitch perfect. Even the last line draws the reader forward. For someone like me, not a history buff, you bring this story of the Trojan War to life. The first person narrative, told in the voice of Neomene, works wonderfully. It made me wonder about the audience, however. Neomene is a teenager. Who is the intended audience? I think it reads well for both an adult and young adult audience. Have you considered placing in the YA category here on Authonomy?
As others have said, the characters, setting, plot, dialogue and writing make this such a delight to read. The balance between action, dialogue, internal dialogue and exposition is fantastic. It's a definite page turner. Speaking of page turning, the chapters seem a little long for the Authonomy format. That's probably just me, though.
I'm giving six stars from my initial read and putting The Girl From Ithaca on my bookshelf. It will be a reminder to pick up where I left off.
Best of luck on the editor's desk.
Debra H
Turnaround Bay

YvonneMarjot wrote 371 days ago

I'm really enjoying this - it draws you in from the first page. The central character is well written and believable, and she provides a great vehicle for retelling a famous tale from a new perspective. Well done you for taking on such an iconic story.

The work would benefit from judicious editing (e.g. chapter 3' Mycenae sailors' should be 'Mycenaean sailors', and there are a number of minor punctuation issues). But the tone and pace are just right. I like the first person narrative - it makes the work fresh and direct. But don't forget that even in first person you can give complex descriptions and lengthy narration. Your work springs from a famous body of literature and a known period in history - your well-educated 14-year-old character should be able to tell us even more. I'd really like to see a longer, more descriptive first paragraph: painting a memorable picture in the reader's mind before you reveal whose ships have arrived, and who must be told.

I'm really reluctant to read any more, because I have such a strong image of myself sitting up in bed with the whole volume to read, as soon as you are published - which must happen. I'm sure of it.

T M Robinson wrote 372 days ago

I don't believe Neomene has a strong enough voice to use first person. If you were to go with third person - personal, you're descriptions would open up and I believe your prose would improve.
Try re-writing the first chapter in 3rd person i.e.: Like a dark stain on the blue sea, the ship sailed towards her. She narrowed her eyes to see a lion's head emblazoned in gold on the billowing sail. Understanding slowly dawned as a chill swept over her. King Menalaus had come for Odysseus, and all the men of Ithaca.;
I think 'third person' will allow you express a lot more internal workings and provide the reader a better understanding of your character.

Tottie Limejuice wrote 375 days ago

I've read the beginning of this. If ancient history had been presented to me in this manner at school, I would have been so much more interested in it than I was.

It takes a brave and accomplished author to tackle a subject like this in the first person. But Cherry is clearly both and succeeds flawlessly. This helped pull me straight into the action. I even found myself feeling short of breath as Neomene raced back to the palace, I was so caught up by the wonderful description.

Not a book I would necessarily have chosen for myself based on the pitch but having chatted on here to Cherry I really wanted to take a look at it and am so pleased I did. Highly starred and backed for its beautiful writing and I shall be back to read more when time allows.

Tottie Limejuice
Sell the Pig

katehyde wrote 376 days ago

This is an excellent beginning. It's well written and draws the reader in. The setting and characters come alive. And I love the premise of a woman's perspective on the Trojan War. Towards the end of the chapter all the absent characters get a little confusing; is it necessary to mention them all?

T Barr wrote 379 days ago

Cherry,

I enjoyed the opening intro to this novel. The adventures are described in vivid details and can be visualized with ease.

This story is definately a good read and I enjoyed the beggining chapters.

Good Luck

Debbie R wrote 379 days ago

What great writing - this epic tale is beautifully crafted.

The story gets going right from the start with Neomene spotting Menelaus' ship. Plenty of action and tension on her run back to the palace. I was rooting for her to get there as quickly as possible! Liked the boy running with her 'The boy's company lightened my legs.'

The fact she took time to ask the boy his name shows a kind side to her nature.
She is such a well drawn m/c - strong. kind, clever and loyal. And just 14 years old.

Liked the fact Neomene touches the potters' wheel for good luck - this kind of detail enriches the story.

Penelope is another strong female character. She already has her husband's outfit ready and springs into action with the plan they have agreed upon.

Writing in the first person has my vote - I feel it gives a story an immediacy that the third person does not.
Telling this from the POV of Neomene brings a freshness to the story we all know so well.

The descriptions of characters and surroundings are wonderful. I felt as though I was actually there watchimg Neomene tearing towards the Palace.

The dialogue is spot on - carefully crafted to fit in with the era.
There is a richness and quality to your writing that makes it a pleasure to read.

Six well-deserved stars.
Debbie







William Holt wrote 379 days ago

Backed again after many, many months. A most worthy offering, here on the ED because of quality, not because of spamming.

NicolaHoppe wrote 381 days ago

I would recommend anyone who is intrigued with Greek mythology or Homer's Iliad to read this masterpiece. It's an adventurous, partly humorous and enjoyable, partly dangerous and heart-breaking story with a believable setting and believable characters, told by fourteen-year-old Neomene, younger sister of Odysseus. She has a very unique voice, innocent and self-aware at the same time, describing the events that led to the Trojan war as she experiences them at her young age. It's emotional, captivating and absolutely eye-opening.

There's nothing I could add to improve this story. All I can do is give you all the stars and a place on my shelf, hoping I will get a chance to read the rest of the chapters as soon as this book is published.

All the best for you Cherry,
Nicola
The Burden of the Badge

Scott Toney wrote 381 days ago

Cherry,

I've loved your work for a long time! So glad to see it at #5!

Go get em!

:)

Have a great day!

- Scott

Nanty wrote 383 days ago

The Girl from Ithaca

I backed this ages ago. I really enjoyed this retelling from a completely different angle, so really pleased to back you again.

Olive Field wrote 384 days ago

I love this book and have backed in the past. It is one of the few books that I read all posted chapters. I hope it will remain on the desk for April. All my best wishes with six stars, Olive.

Billie Storm wrote 387 days ago

Forgive; am shockingly ignorant of the Trojan wars, but this colossal venture commanded both respect and intrigue. The opener is immediately accessible, and, dare I say, contemporary - really, nothing changes.
This is an accomplished work, and not usually my sort of read, yet the confidence of the writer in her subject sets me at ease and allows me to relax in the telling. I think this is very readable, as in audio book, fast moving with abundant imagery.
I wil read further in and return later.

good luck for the coming month.

Best

HoosierTony wrote 391 days ago

"The Girl from Ithaca" is Neomene, the kid sister of Odysseus, and, wow, does she get herself into some adventures! She gets away from the hinterland island of Ithaca and manages to hit all the high marks of the events of the Trojan War, yet it never seems contrived or forced. The author makes a number of very good decisions along the way and so the narrative is natural. And also heart-breaking, humorous and exciting. I recommend this for anyone who likes Greek literature, ancient history, mythology or just a ripping good yarn.

HoosierTony
Kongball

NicolaHoppe wrote 394 days ago

Hi Cherry, I saw your book recommended on another profile here on authonomy. I absolutely love ancient Greek myths and find your pitch very promising. I dipped into your first chapter as well but don't really have time now. I liked what I've read so far though and watchlisted your book. I will return to comment/rate as soon as I can.
All the best,
Nicola
The Burden of the Badge

AudreyB wrote 398 days ago

Wow. Of course I've heard good things about your book ever since Scott Pack put it on his shelf, but have never taken the time to stop by to read. It's excellent. As a teacher, I'd love to have this book on my shelf for students who can't quite get into Homer. As a reader, I enjoy reading something so fresh and new. I liked how you used Neomene's scramble to warn Odysseus to introduce her character and the village. You do a particularly nice job of weaving in tidbits about the Olympian gods and goddesses. It's really very well done.

~AudreyB

Lucy Heath wrote 399 days ago

Hi Cherry,
I’ve had this on my watchlist for ages – I’m a big fan of Greece and Greek myths and it’s great have such a well-known story told from a new perspective, a female one too. The first chapter seems to have been revised since I first saw it - it reads really beautifully now anyway. The only question raised in my mind was the exchange with Euryclea. When Penelope says “Agamemnon’s been planning this war for years…” it’s new to the reader but would a family confidante already know that? Similarly, when the nurse says “I’ve spent more than twenty-five years watching you grow…” Could the important information be introduced more naturally in their conversation? Hope you don’t mind the nit-pick because it’s a very lovely piece of writing, with a fair amount of research behind it too, I guess. I hope to see it on the desk soon.
Lucy

A.E. Fairfield wrote 403 days ago

Cherry,

Really well done. Such a great idea to write from a woman's perspective - great twist on classic story! I wish I could provide some constructive comments but your writing is beautiful and story intriguing. Very few writers can successfully provide rich descriptions without becoming overly wordy and losing the momentum of the story - but you do it flawlessly. Deserves to be on real bookshelves!

Ashley
The Polaris Effect

Tracie Podger wrote 403 days ago

Such a lovely written story, I have really enjoyed the chapters I have read so far. Deserves to be on the ED desk and I have backed it.

Scott Butcher wrote 405 days ago

Return Read

Hi Cherry,

You provided such a good commentary on my book that I was very much obliged to return the favour (at last). Trouble is your book deserves it's high rank! It's extremely well polished and I think I'm going to have to read a long ways in to find anything to help you with (if I can find anything at all). The good news is that it's a really good book to read, so I'm not going to mind this at all. The eagle in the first chapter, of course caught my attention - I bet it was Zeus. The footrace to the palace conjured ancient Ithaca along the way, from the goat tracks and goat herds, to the naked boy who ran with Neomene to the stalls in the market place. I know the story of the Iliad so the general story is familar, but you've really brought it out of the cobwebs and given it a new life.

I have found some minor editorial stuff, but the main story itself is pretty poignant, especially with the sacrifice of Iphigenia:

Chp 2: "His sickness is great loss to us all." better as "His sickness is a great loss to us all."

"Even

override you, Menelaus." stray carriage return in sentence.

Chp 4: "She got the halter." sounds awkward, maybe better as "She's got the halter."

"... about walls being impossible to breach." maybe better as "...about the walls being impossible to breach."

"...blacksmith's forge standing..." maybe better as "...a blacksmoth's forge standing...".

"...when he's not a war." should be "...when he's not at war."

Chp 5: "They'd be no mothers or grandmothers..." should be "There'd be no mothers or grandmothers..."

"...giving them chance to hide their disagreement." should be "...giving them a chance to hide their disagreement."

"...or any Ithacan I Ka man I could trust." This sentence needs help.

Chp 6: "Who gave it you?" should be "Who gave it to you?"

"...why's the shit always happening to me?" should it be "...why's this shit always happening to me?"

I've read to the end of chapter 6, an excellent story so far, 6 stars, one for each chapter!
Cheers, Scott Butcher (The Merlin Falcon)

maryanneO wrote 410 days ago

Hi Cherry,
I spotted your book, and after opening ch1 just out of curiosity, I was delighted. Although tagged as a historical novel, the story of Troy itself straddles the blurry lines between myth and legend, so your story told from Odysseus' sister's viewpoint definitely works for me as an avid reader of fantasy works. You've had lots of lovely compliments, and I'd like to second them - your writing is an absolute pleasure to read, and I look forward to following the story you have created. I particularly enjoyed the relaxed, easy tone of your dialogue - just because something is 'historical' doesn't mean it has to 'sound' that way to prove it. This opening chapter is a good mix of personal, family interactions and an introduction to the political tensions, leaving the reader on edge as to whether Odysseus' plan is going to work. High stars, and on my shelf for further reading.
Maryanne

R. Dango wrote 410 days ago

Just read first two chapters. Enough to know that it is a wonderful story - beautifully written and full of adventures. I have never thought I could get so much into a story so ancient, and about the time and the legend told, written, made into films so many times.

I especially liked the beautiful way the abduction of Helen was described.

As Neomene ran, spoke nervously yet patiently with two visitors, and followed them to the beach, I felt my heart pounding with her, and almost cried when the deceit has failed.

Truly a great work. I have found nothing that should be added or taken away from the opening chapters I've read.

nautaV wrote 420 days ago

Dear Cherry,
I've read three chapters of your The Girl from Ithaca and fell in love with it completely. You've managed to write a wonderful specimen of historical novel genre. The point of view on the well known events, you've chosen,gives the reader a rare chance to look at them with the eyes of a contemporary. Homer tells about them differently because even for him it was very remote past.
Your narration is full of tiny details that help the reader feel the aroma of those days. These are the lion's head on the sail and on the seal, two brooches, one of gold and amber and the other handmade of bone, the dark blue Penelope's cloak, etc.
You've made the reader sympathize with Odysseus's attempts to avoid his taking part in Trojan war and Menelaus's behavior but dislike cruel Palamedes. You've let us feel that something is not good with Menelaus's messenger, Phoebus, that something may go wrong. Even his name warns us about it.
Your well elaborated topic is written in a wonderful almost poetic style. The images are vivid and live, the dialogues are as fluent as spring waters.
I'm surprised that such a wonderful book is not on the ED yet.

All possible stars, my WL for the time being and my sincere respect, dear Cherry !

Trying to be helpful, I'd like to pay your attention to:
CH.1.
"The skilled tradesmen lived...and it meant we were near the centre of the town."
Neomene speaks here as if she doesn't know her native town and not knowledge but logic is her guide.
Ch.2.
"Even / override you, Menelaus"
This sentence's broken due to a formatting.
Ch.3.
"Helen regards her beauty as a curse sometimes, though she's makes good use..." (she makes good use?)

My very best regards!
Valentine But
Escape

Fontaine wrote 421 days ago

Well, this was great surprise as I don't like historical fiction and only started reading it as I have seen you on the forum and also love your brilliantly simple avi. This is so good and so well written I'm high starring it and will read on. I never thought anyone would get me to read a book like this but you have. Thanks for that. Fontaine.

J.Adams wrote 423 days ago

Revisiting The Girl from Ithaca - one of my favorite stories, not just on Authonomy, but among all stories. I think my comment sounds more like a pitch, but this is what I think about this book, and Cherry's incredible work:

Gregory's thorough research, knowledge and use of Homer's tales of Odysseus and the Trojan War, coupled with her vivid imagination, serve to create a new and brilliant saga. Far too often, history is HIS story, while HER story is left out, as though men and their deeds exist in a vacuum. We know this is not the case; the most casual observations attest to the involvement, strength and bravery of women in all facets of life, particularly during times of societal upheaval. It's past time to read such an intriguing account of the roles of women in this epic tale. Gregory's vivid imagery lifts you immediately away from your surroundings, dropping you directly into the story. With her first exciting words, you are there! Rushing over the hills with sixteen-year-old Neomene to warn her brother, Odysseus, of Menelaus' approach. There is no turning back now, you've been caught as surely as the characters, and you are on your way!

And what a story this is! Not only for lovers of mythology, history, and the blending of fact and fiction, this ride is for everyone who cherishes lyrical prose! I've fallen in love with the wild ancient lands, the sea, and especially with our heroine, Neomene, who is so vibrantly alive, she makes me yearn for the freedoms of my own long-lost youth. Fair-minded, spirited, brave beyond belief, and utterly charming, Neomene will win your heart as she takes you with her through incredible highs and harrowing lows on her personal, remarkable adventure through the Ionian Islands in a trek from Ithaca to Troy!

In this modern era when the word "epic" is being tossed around far too casually, The Girl from Ithaca truly is an (old-style) epic work in the grandest sense. And Gregory's passion for epic-sized adventure is inspirational. The Girl from Ithaca is nothing short of a labor of love. Step through this fantastic time portal and join Neomene on the literary ride of your life!

Congratulations, Cherry, on a remarkable story superbly told. I can't wait to have a hard copy on my favorite bookshelf at home! Wishing you all the very best with this tremendous work of art!

Narcissus wrote 427 days ago

I have not read a lot of this yet, but I have to agree with the comment below. When I saw it was first person, I hoped it wouldn't be riddled with "I"s. You know: I walked forward. I yelled, I looked, I, I, I, I... This kind of first person writing can turn me off quick. As I browsed, I saw the use of "I" was somewhat minimal. There are a few places where two sentences in a row begin with "I", but looks like the author was careful with it. Now I'm ready to read with the intention of focusing on the story.
Will be back,
~Joe
Isles End

c. ross wrote 428 days ago

The Girl from Ithaca

Loved: “...their pipe music drifting through the air like wisps of smoke.” More than one sense intertwined--the word “pipe” itself linking them. Nicely done. Your descriptions are never wordy: “Traders were shouting about the taste of their fruit of the sharpness of their axe heads.” Parallelism abounds: “frenzied bargaining and wild promises.” I especially like the touching of the potter’s wheel for luck--you are so thoroughly versed in authentic culture, and this is a highlight. You’ve turned the mythic into the mundane (and I mean this in a miraculous sense!). I love how Odysseus jokes about his frock and the previous owner leaving friends behind, and later how Odysseus “blew out his cheeks.” Previously paper cut-outs in most re-tellings, these mythic figures are now real to me. I especially appreciate that you’ve chosen to begin with the conspiracy to feign madness. What a marvelous episode (and so interesting that the Bible has a parallel in King David’s madness before the Philistines). Stunning and true.

Noticed: “fourteen year old girl” (fourteen-year-old girl); “dark haired boy” (dark-haired); “ten year old sister” (ten-year-old)--sorry if this fit of hyphen histrionics seems pedantic. I just wanted you to see through another set of eyes since you’ll be at the desk so soon. Maybe “mud-brick houses” too? Do you intentionally choose the Latin name Remus here?

Thank you for letting me read your work. I wish you all the best,

c. ross
So Much Depends

Emma.L.H. wrote 428 days ago

Wow, Cherry, what a read. This is one of the most well-written books I've read on this site-- truly. I've read a few from this era but this is top of the heap. I must admit, I rolled my eyes a little when I began reading and saw it was in first person. I've come across some shockers on here; it's rare to find one done well. Yours is. Nothing sounded out of place or incorrect-- great job.

Neomene's an incredibly strong MC. In fact, every one of your characters has depth and is very easily visualised. Your dialogue is also spot on and I like your descriptions of the town. You have clear control over your writing; despite the descriptions being rich, we aren't bogged down with detail.

This is very polished. I only noticed a few minor issues:

Dark haired (boy) should be hyphenated.

Fourteen year old girl & ten year old sister should be fourteen-year-old girl & ten-year-old sister.

No other problems. I thoroughly enjoyed this and when Pete's book has made the ED, you'll be taking its place. There's nothing more I can think of to say, I really like this. Highly starred for now, and I wish you all the best with it. Well done.