Home is the Hunter by Helen MacInnes

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Home is the Hunter by Helen MacInnes

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A gem and an original, unstuffy take on the ancient Greek story of Ulysses' home coming to Penelope. Helen MacInnes not only adds humour but also turns it into a play which becomes a fun read with unstinting action on the action.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: February 2014
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 978-1781163313

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Seventeen years after he left home to fight in the Trojan War (that's also seven years after it had finished!) Ulysses returns home. A lot has changed; his wife is at home with eleven men for a start! Penelope is being held under virtual house arrest by eleven strangers. How will Ulysses manage to free her and regain his hearth with only his son and a pig herd to help? Gods only knows! Meanwhile Penelope is visited by another man. His name's Homer and he wants to write an epic poem. Not a good time Homer, not a good time at all!

Scottish writer Helen MacInnes (1937 – 1985) was renowned for writing espionage fiction. All her spy novels hit the best seller lists and Salzburg Connection made it onto the big screen causing the Sunday Express to nominate her as The Queen of Spy Writers. The fact she found time and imagination to switch genre and write a modern take on a classics legend may come as a surprise. The fact that it's very good indeed, however, should surprise no one.

The first thing we need to do before opening the book is to forget all the stuff we were force fed at school which may have put us off the ancients. Yes, Ulysses is the main character of The Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem by Homer but thanks to Helen we see him in a new light and off-putting it isn't! It's actually a fun, action packed romp that retains its dignity, is written as a play and really works.

Homer is actually present, conversing with his characters as he tries to write his masterpiece around them. Unfortunately for him Ulysses, Penelope et al are not behaving how he'd like them to, nor indeed using the words he would wish to put in their mouths. This doesn't only raise a smile but also adds a topical touch as spin is pitted against truth.

Both the fearless Homer and beautiful Penelope are intelligent and resourceful, working on plans to free their household from the unwelcome occupants. Unfortunately for them (and creating a spectacle for us) they don't seem to be singing from the same Greek song sheet.

The supporting cast are equally delightful. Telemachus, their son, is a teenage lad… say no more! Meanwhile Penelope is ably assisted by sassy maid Clia and hampered by the deliciously dim Amaryllis. Then, in the midst of the plotting and fighting the goddess Athena tries to inject objective reasoning into the proceedings. Sorry lass – these happen to be humans!

The humour is sometimes sophisticated and always well-paced, wryly observed while avoiding becoming a Greek equivalent of Up Pompeii. Indeed contrary to what I believed as I snoozed through Miss Mitchell's classes 40 years ago, if you want to escape the hassle of the day with a few laughs and much engrossment, there's nothing like the ancients (at least the way that Helen MacInnes tells it).

(Thank you so much Titan Books for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you'd like to read what Helen MacInnes is famed for, we recommend Above Suspicion. If you'd prefer to stick with some chortle-worthy updated classics, look no further than the mischievous The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris.

Buy Home is the Hunter by Helen MacInnes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Home is the Hunter by Helen MacInnes at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Home is the Hunter by Helen MacInnes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Home is the Hunter by Helen MacInnes at Amazon.com.


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