Book Review: Odysseus: The Oath by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.

odysseus-the-oath-by-valerio-massimo-manfredi-goodreadsType: Paperback, 372 pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan, October 1, 2013 (first published in November 6, 2012)

Original Title: Il mio nome è Nessuno: Il giuramento

Odysseus: The Oath was written by Valerio Massimo Manfredi and translated into English by his wife, Christine Feddersen-Manfredi. The Oath is the first book in a three-part series which also include the second book, Odysseus: The Return and the third and last book, Odysseus: The Oracle. The author of the books, Signor Manfredi, is an Italian historian, writer, essayist, archaeologist and journalist. Valerio’s wife, Christine, had been behind the translation of the books from Italian to English, and here I am, with the English-translated version.

The book kicked off with Odysseus’ childhood and life in Ithaca, where a legend was born. Odysseus was his name, being a great tactician with one of the most curious minds and a calm demeanor was his game. His legendary soul came part and parcel of something grave and so huge that it will remain etched forever in the minds of countless generations. His legacy had been tied up with the others who swore by his name and blood, alongside some of the greatest sons of the Greek soil.

Valerio Manfredi’s take on his titular hero couldn’t be any stronger and more loyal, despite the fact that the 10-year battle in Troy which led to the fall of the prosperous city and its impenetrable walls with the Trojan Horse also focused on the abduction of Helen of Sparta by Prince Paris of Troy, the exploits of Prince Hector, Paris’ older brother and King Priam’s eldest son, as well as the legendary Greek warrior, Achilles.

Synopsis by Goodreads:

The extraordinary story of a legendary hero…

As a young boy in Ithaca, Odysseus listens in wonder to his grandfather Autolykos – a ruthless fighter and a man feared by many across the land. He learns of his heritage and a lifelong passion is sparked: to become an adventurer and warrior.

In Mycenae, he meets King Eurystheus and learns the terrible story of Hercules – the man with god-like strength who slaughtered his family and as punishment was forced by the King to undertake impossible tasks to earn absolution. But is Eurystheus the man he says he is? When a child comes to Odysseus in the middle of the night, with another, very disturbing version of events, Odysseus embarks on the first of his extraordinary quests…

So begins the epic story of Odysseus, in the first of two volumes: an adventure of love, war, courage and heroism that weaves from a small Greek island, to the mighty fall of Troy.

I have watched the movie, Troy, before which starred Eric Bana as Prince Hector, Orlando Bloom as Prince Paris, Diane Kruger as Helen of Sparta, Sean Bean as Odysseus, and Brad Pitt as Achilles, and I have to say, the storylines for both the movie and the book were so very different. I’ve always known that watching a movie and reading the book were two different things. The movie left me no room for imagination. The book, however, gave me the opportunity to imagine all that were described and explained, page after page. It was a beautiful feeling indeed. Either the producer for the movie wanted something a little less prejudiced for movie-goers or the author of the book wanted to leave his readers feeling more sympathetic and empathic for Odysseus. The only way of finding out is if you went to do your own research on the history of Ancient Greece and its legendary warriors.

That aside, I did enjoy reading the book. After all, Ancient Greek history is one of my favourite history subjects and having been able to read it in a different angle had piqued my interest. Piqued it enough to log into Book Depository to buy the second book and am now waiting for the book to arrive. Reading this book made me relive the movie Troy all over again anyway, regardless of its differences with the book. I was reminded when Helen was wooed over by Prince Paris, when Prince Hector was forced to duel with Achilles and died heroically because his brother Paris was too much of a wimp to fight, when Troy was besieged and burned by a giant wooden horse on wheels pretending to be a gift from the enemy.

Imagine, all it took for the battle to begin was the reckless act of one young selfish prince. That itself had set off a thousand ships with fifty thousand men to come knocking at your front door, demanding that one’s wife be returned or forever mourn the loss of everyone and everything. All this bloodshed and glorified murder for the sake of the wounded pride and ego of one man whose wife had left him for another man. The Trojans became victims of the Achaeans. No doubt the Achaeans themselves had lost many men too, many great and courageous men.

Which is why I said it depends entirely on how you perceive the plot in the book. Because I saw it as how arrogant and proud the Trojans were. How sure they were of themselves that they could keep Helen of Sparta and emerge victorious in the impending battle that took almost 10 years as well as the many lives of the warriors. How would you have seen it?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Alice Padwe says:

    I don’t mind having a brief excerpt from my review on your website, but I do mind being misquoted and especially having a grammatical error introduced into the material. Please refer to the original and correct the quotation.


    1. Sheu Quen says:

      Hi Alice, my sincerest apologies on the error. Since I’m unfamiliar with the proper quotation and to further prevent any ill feelings, I will remove the excerpt instead. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! I appreciate it.


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