The Fall of Troy – Peter Ackroyd

Title: The Fall of Troy
Author: Peter Ackroyd
ISBN: 0385522908
Pages: 272
Release Date: November 6, 2007
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: *** (out of 5)

From the dust jacket:

Heinrich Obermann, a celebrated German archaeologist, has uncovered the ancient ruins of Troy on a Turkish hillside. He fervently believes his discovery will prove that the heroes of the Iliad, a work he has cherished all his life, actually exited. Sophia, Obermann’s young Greek wife, works at the site, carefully preserving the ancient treasures he uncovers. But Sophia soon comes to see another side of her husband. He is mysteriously vague about his past and the wife he claims died years before. When she finds a cache of artifacts that Obermann has hidden away, her suspicions about him rise, feelings that escalate when a visiting archaeologist who questions Obermann’s methods dies from a mysterious fever. The arrival of a second, equally skeptical archaeologist brings Sophia’s doubts to a head – and spurs Obermann to make even greater claims about the evidence he has found and the profound importance of his achievements.

When I first heard about The Fall of Troy, I was intrigued because I am very interested in archaeology and history. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of ancient Greece, so a book that sounded like it was based on Heinrich Schleimann’s excavation of Hisarlik, which he claimed was Troy, sounded very appealing.

While the archaeology in the book and theories presented are very interesting, the book unfortunately has another focus: the utter unlikeability of Obermann. He is closed minded and obsessively looks for anything and everything that might connect the hill he is excavating with Ancient Troy. The numerous times he finds evidence that refutes his theories, he simply ignores it or destroys it. While some might describe him as passionate, it is clear he is in search of mythology rather than history.

The mysteries Sophia uncovers also take a backseat to Obermann, which is a pity. If this portion of the book had been fleshed out more, the novel really would have been a wonderful mystery. The fact that they are living at an archaeological site gives the entire book an air of spookiness; it seems like more focus on the mystery would have worked incredibly well.

In short, The Fall of Troy is good, but not great. If you are interested in Ancient Greece and the excavation of Troy, you may enjoy this book. However, while I am relatively certain Obermann is based on Schliemann (he too had a penchant for twisting the evidence to fit his facts), it is clear that the book is historical fiction. Still, despite the clunky writing, it is a solid read.


  1. I just picked this up from the library on Thursday because it looked interesting. I figured you couldn’t go wrong with an archaeological murder mystery.

  2. I like archaeological reads. Have you ever read A Skeleton in Gods Closet?? That was a good one.

  3. Boy, I read this a while back and just didn’t like it that much. I thought Obermann was really annoying and the story was just a little flat to me. I’ve heard though that Peter Ackroyd has better books out there so I will probably give another one of his books a try.

  4. Sorry it wasn’t a great read for you. It’s a really good review though. I’m not sure this would be anything I’d like to read although you never know. I hope your next read is better!

  5. I’ve loved mythology ever since middle school when we learned about the Greek people’s beliefs. Never did have but a passing interest in Troy though. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it that much 🙁

  6. Thanks for your great review and frank comments. Congratulations on your award too!

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