Goddess of Yesterday
Delacorte Press, June, 2002.
Hardcover, 263 pages.
Ages 12 and up
There is no better doorway into Bronze Age Greece than this exciting novel for young readers by Caroline B. Cooney. From the first page when this spunky girl, Anaxandra, is taken from her parents and her home by pirates when she is only six years old to the last page, when she is in no man's land during the Trojan War, the reader has to admire this girl who tells her story in a matter of fact way with neither self-pity or self-aggrandizement.
The reader is immediately plunged into a brutal age with viewpoints and attitudes that are totally foreign to the twenty-first century reader. Fear of offending the gods rules the lives of all citizens of this bronze age society, but it is perfectly all right to burn and pillage other islands and carry off citizens to be sold into a life of slavery. The gods are by no means united into a common religion; instead, two gods may be supporting opposing armies or kings. Through her very thorough research into The Iliad and other ancient writers, Ms. Cooney makes all of the characters come alive as we observe their personalities through their actions.
Anaxandra begins her story on a small island in the Aegean Sea where she lives happily with her mother and her father, a chieftain of the island. One day when she is only six, ships filled with soldiers arrive. They demand a tribute and little Anaxandra as a hostage. The leader of the soldiers, King Nicander, decides that Anaxandra will make a good playmate for his crippled daughter, Callisto. Anaxandra is taken into the new family and she gains many useful skills as time passes. Then one day again pirates come to plunder and the entire island is soon in flames. Anaxandra escapes, but her new family is killed. It is when a new fleet of ships arrives that Anaxandra must take advantage of mistaken identity and claim to be Princess Callisto so that she can survive and not be sold into slavery. King Menelaus takes her home, saves the treasure taken for her dowry and treats her well. But Queen Helen is suspicious of a princess with red hair. Like all Greeks of this period, she knows not only her own ancestry, but is familiar with the ancestry of the late King Nicander. Helen is suspicious that Anaxandra is not Princess Callisto. One day two Trojan princes, Aeneas and Paris arrive. Paris and Helen are strongly attracted to each other, and when Menelaus leaves to attend a funeral, they plunder his kingdom and Helen sails away with Paris. Anaxandra must go with them to care for Helen's infant son. Anaxandra's adventures in Troy and her final meeting with Menelaus are exciting, and upon finishing the story the reader can really feel that a trip through time to Bronze Age Greece has occurred.
In case the reader would care to review his or her knowledge of the Trojan War with all its famous personalities, both human and divine, Ms. Cooney has provided a very enlightening discussion of the various issues surrounding this fascinating novel. She points out where she has altered a few facts to fit the literary demands of the story. Her insights are both entertaining and informative.
--Sarah Reaves White
Goddess of Yesterday is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the September, 2002 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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