Daughters of Sparta

A tale of secrets, betrayal and revenge from mythology's most vilified women

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Pub Date 22 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 22 Jul 2021

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Two sisters parted. Two women blamed. Two stories reclaimed.

'Required reading for fans of Circe . . . a remarkable, thrilling debut' - Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

'Fluent and persuasive. I admire the ambition with which Heywood tackles the subject, to which she brings freshness and verve. I enjoyed it very much' - Elizabeth Buchan, bestselling author of The Museum of Broken Promises

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.

Perfect for readers of Circe and Ariadne, Daughters of Sparta is 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.

Helen of Troy and her sister Klytemnestra are reimagined in this gorgeous retelling of the classic Greek myth - not as women defined by their husbands and lovers but as battle-weary survivors of a patriarchal society who take control of their own destiny. Absolutely riveting!' - Alka Joshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Henna Artist

Two sisters parted. Two women blamed. Two stories reclaimed.

'Required reading for fans of Circe . . . a remarkable, thrilling debut' - Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of...

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ISBN 9781529349931
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Featured Reviews

Daughters of Sparta is extremely compelling. I’ve always wanted to know more about Helen – who is such a catalyst in the Homerian epic, but such a passive figure without a voice of her own. Traditionally she is reduced merely to her beauty, when really, she should be presented as a woman in her own right, making decisions that have repercussions rippling across all of Ancient Greece and Troy. And her sister Klytemnestra – famous for murdering her husband – is often similarly pigeonholed due to a single moment in her legendary life, missing all the other moments that led to this one. In this novel, Claire Heywood manages to make the sisters into flawed women, trying to live their lives the best they can. Neither Helen nor Klytemnestra are presented as heroines – or villainesses, for that matter – in the story. They are simply human. They struggle, they suffer, they make mistakes. And they are at the mercy of men. Because no matter how feminist one wants to present this story, that remains a central aspect of it – both of their lives were heavily driven by the whims of men – fathers, husbands, lovers. And while the reader knows how this story goes, it is after all one that is thousands of years old, Claire Heywood packages it in a compelling voice that leaves the reader captivated and unable to stop reading on. Daughters of Sparta is an excellent example for the magic of strong characterisations and emotional investment being the crucial ingredients in a fantastic book.

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“So many people have left her; she felt as if there wasn’t enough of her to patch the holes they have left behind.” • Daughters of Sparta is the myth retelling I was waiting for since Circe. The author has decided to leave the Gods outside the narration in order to make us perceive Klytemnestra and Helen as real girls, with real lives and real feelings. Let’s start with Helen, I think there is no one who would say: Oh I like that girl. She is considered a whore who is only able to follow her desires without thinking of consequences. But here, in this tale, she is just a very lonely girl who doesn’t know how to speak with her husband and who is fascinated by a golden boy who promises her the world. Of course the reality is different, but how is she supposed to know that?! She only knows her very narrow reality and when she has the chance to be free, she just grabs it because she desperately wants to be happy and she thinks that’s the only way. Born from a rape, she has never received the love she deserved from her mother and she feels inadequate as a mother herself. She is afflicted by depression and the only person with whom she has ever felt a great attachment, her sister, is far away. I must admit I have always liked Klytemnestra‘s story. She is obliged to leave her house and go living with a man who makes her feel small and makes her think the only way to be a good mother and a good woman is to stay silent. But when he takes the decision to kill their own daughter, how can she stay put? The grief is just too strong, but again the author does an incredible thing here. Klytemnestra doesn’t really kill Agamemnon because of her daughter, she understands that he must have grieved too (even if this is not an excuse), but she kills him because she has found out there is another kind of life she can live, a life where she is respected and listened to and she does not want to give up to it. Maybe it’s a bit extreme, but who would be able to return into a cage after experiencing freedom? I really found the two daughters of Sparta so real, with the same desires and fears all the women have and it is a great hymn to feminism. All women shouldn’t be silent, they should express they desires and be put into the condition not to fear doing so!

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Daughters of Sparta is that most wonderful of books - one that draws you in from the very first pages and won't let go of you until the end. I read it in just over a day. I didn't want to put it down. The storytelling is engaging, the characters of Helen and her sister, beautifully sketched while everyone around them, apart from their mother, stays very much in the background. This is their story. At times the reader will hate either or both of the sisters, at other times, the reader will understand their pain, their desire to be more than their birthright. A beautifully evocative story that speaks of the loneliness of royal marriage, of the heavy, and life-threatening expectations placed on young women to become mothers, and you will be swept along by a tale you think you know but might not. 5 stars from me. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy.

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Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood is an excellent historical fiction that takes some classic, albeit underwritten, female characters within Greek mythology and creates a new narrative allowing new voices to emerge. I really enjoyed reading the perspectives of Helen and Klytemnestra. We get to see everything from their perspective as they grow up and the events in their lives, and the world as they see it, up until the events after the Trojan War. This, to me, was more of a character-driven novel and that allowed for a slower, more complex and reflective pace. Learning their thoughts, hopes, dreams, opinions, and how society was for them in Sparta growing up, as well as thereafter, really enveloped me. I enjoyed the new perspective that was presented through their stories. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more from this author. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Hodder & Stoughton for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

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