Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B. Cooney
I was loaned this book on tape (yes, tape!) by a friend. She thought I might like the book. I listened to the first half of the first tape and thought, why am I still listening...??? I kept going and that was the last time I had that thought.
Caroline Cooney spins an amazing tale about ancient Greece and Troy. She starts when Anaxandra is a six year old hostage from a siege on her home island. She is taken to live with King Nicander to be a playmate for the Princess Callisto, a crippled girl near her age. Anaxandra survives when a band of pirates attack and kill Nicander and most of the residents of the island. She buries Nicander and as she is standing guard over his grave, a fleet of ships lead by Menelaus picks up Anaxandra. She survives by telling them she is the Princess Callisto.
Menelaus introduces her to his wife, Helen. Helen is part goddess, her father is Zeus and her mother was Lida. Helen sees through the disguise and knows that she is no princess. Anaxandra is sure the gods are punishing her for stealing another’s birthright. She becomes friends with Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus and Helen and takes care of Pleisthenes, their youngest son (just an infant).
When Paris of Troy arrives everything changes. Helen leaves Menelaus and plans to sail to Troy with Paris. When Hermione realizes that her mother is planning to run away she is furious and decides to kill her. She is stopped by her nurse and Anaxandra. Anaxandra is disguised as Hermione and leaves with Pleisthenes in order to save the life of Hermione. When she arrives it doesn’t take long for Helen to realize that she has been deceived. Anaxandra spends the rest of the book trying to make sure that Paris doesn’t kill Pleisthenes.
Cooney shows a great deal of attention to detail in this great book. She mixes fiction with history (and the writings of Homer and others) to create a delightful story. Themes of self-sufficiency, coming of age, family and identity abound. What starts off slowly grows into a beautifully woven tale of life in ancient times.