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307 pages, Hardcover
First published August 24, 2021
On the day Polxena died, I’d stood by Achilles’ burial mound and told myself that Achilles’ story had ended at the grace, and that my own story was about to begin. The truth? Achilles’ story never ends: whenever mean fight and die, you’ll find Achilles. And as for me – my story and his were inextricably linked.
I watched him stagger across the floor, his fresh, young face slack with booze and shock, staring from one man to another, desperate for these men who’d known his father, who’d fought beside his father, to say how like Achilles he was …. But nobody did
Alcimus is here now, I have to go ….. I turn my back on the burial mound and let him lead me down to the ships …. Now, my own story can begin
These were men who'd been living on their nerves for years and now, when things should have been easy, they were frustrated because the longed-for journey home was continually postponed. Every day began in hope, every day ended in disappointment. They'd just won a war. How could it be that victory, the greatest in the history of the world... had started to taste like defeat?
Looking around, I realized that everything here - every herb, flower and vegetable - had been planted by men who expected to see the next season, the next spring. Everywhere, there were signs of a normal day disrupted. A spade, its blade crusted with dry soil, lay at the end of a freshly dug row. On the bench, there was a square of red-and-white cloth wrapped round somebody's half-eaten lunch: a hunk of bread and a slab of mouldy pale-yellow cheese with a bite taken out of it. Whoever it was, he must have been just starting his meal when the gates opened and the wooden horse was dragged inside - and he'd left, just like that, carelessly, without a second thought, expecting to return. He'd vanished into the shouting, celebrating crowds...