“Fury. Pure fury. The blood was up. Lost the head completely.”
I am a HUGE fan of classics placed in contemporary settings. And not just your typical reimagined story, but the ones where you forget you’re even in a contemporary setting because you are immersed in everything that made the classic. Merging the Iliad with the IRA, oh mercy, this book is insane! If Baz Lurman optioned the movie rights today, I would already be standing in line to watch it, because holy shit, it’s that fucking good.
There’s lyrical prose and then there’s writing so gorgeous it’s poetic. The words dance beneath your eyes, pulling you into a trance while the story, both known and unknown, propels forward. It’s lush and haunting, evoking the classic timelessness of the ballad with the tragic struggle in Ireland.
What makes this book so good, is the similarities between both wars. Country is the weaving of the two stories, tied seamlessly together. Both epic in tragedy with a grand scale of violence, yet told with such beauty, such grace, that they flow one into the other, a symbol of history repeating itself.
“Death looks like glory to a young man. Get a few years on you, and glory starts looking a lot like death.”
From the very beginning, the language, the imagery, all of it is unique to Ireland and yet, feels like it could be on a beach facing the city of Troy. The characters, some with similar names, others without, are recognizable and also uniquely their own. Country is not an exact retelling. Names are one example of this, but there are countless differences to the ways the stories weave together. For all the variations, though, the intent, the motivations, those are the same.
Okay, confession time. So, I haven’t read The Iliad, or any translations since college. And even then, I didn’t exactly read the actual text. Hello, SparkNotes, my oldest friend… Anyway. I do know the story quite well. I’ve read summaries, read retellings, watched the movies. Anyone interested should definitely check out the series on Netflix. But that’s an aside.
I confess all that, because one of my favorite things about Country, is that while this is centered on Achilles, we get different perspectives on a variety of other characters. I don’t know if the poem does that, but I really loved that detail. It made the experience more immersive. Even without the pieces leading up to Achilles and his role in the war, we understand the complexity of it all. The different dynamics propelling this tragedy forward, in both versions of the story.
“Until then, we live and die here below. One nod of the head, one tip of the scales. The way it always was. The way it has to be.”
Readers fond of classic books will fall in love with Country. Anyone with a love of lyrical prose, poetic story telling, and a creative blend of classic and contemporary within a single story will also fall head over heals.
Thank you TLC Book Tours and Custom House Books for sending me a copy.