Title: Why Homer Matters
Author: Adam Nicolson
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Rating: 4 out of 5
In this exploration of the history and legacy of Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, Adam Nicolson discusses the background of these poems, the true identity of the man we know as Homer, and the journeys on which their characters embark.
A great read for anyone who loves the poems of Homer, Adam Nicolson’s Why Homer Matters is a deep discussion of the relevance of Homer today and how his poems reflect the humanity within all of us.
I’ve been fascinated with ancient Greece ever since I was a little girl, and The Iliad is one of my favorite books (and definitely my favorite poem) of all time. So when I first heard about Why Homer Matters, I was immediately intrigued. A close look at the legacy of Homer and why his poems are still relevant today absolutely seemed like something I wanted to read.
Why Homer Matters is a mix of travelogue, history, and literary memoir. He takes the reader on a journey through what Homer means to him, and by proxy, what these poems mean to us all and what they can tell us about ourselves. It’s easy to dismiss The Iliad and The Odyssey as cultural relics, a product of the time they were created, but Nicolson shows us that these were (and still can be) living and breathing works, changing with each generation due to their oral, rather than written, history. In fact, Nicolson takes it a step further, arguing that these poems are much older than we think they are, and makes a convincing case for it.
In some ways, Nicolson brings a hero-worship tone to Why Homer Matters. It’s clear that these epics captured his attention at a young age, and that he turned these characters into his heroes. It’s sweet, but also very personal for him. So personal, in fact, that he uses Homeric themes to help describe and deal with the aftermath of being raped. It’s so interesting and sad to see him compare his fear, the violation and the specter of death looming before him, to the brutality of The Iliad. It brings home the sheer violence of the epic, as well as its humanity.
If you love ancient Greece as I do and enjoyed The Iliad and The Odyssey, then you’ll likely appreciate Nicolson’s discussion in this book. It’s thoughtful and engaging; Nicolson takes the time to discuss many of the major characters, including the oft-overlooked Helen of Troy. It’s certainly a well-written book that will draw you in and keep you interested in every point, thought, and discussion that Nicolson has about the illustrious and legendary Homer.