“The Fall of Troy” by Peter Ackroyd

Heinrich Obermann, a German archaeologist believes he has found the site of the ancient city of Troy. After marrying the beautiful young Sophia Chrysanthis who can read the works of Homer, they travel to the excavation. Herr Obermann educates his young bride in his theories of Troy, but she as time passes Sophia begins to wonder at the techniques and methods of her husband, particularly when visiting foreign academics question the validity of the finds and how the great German archaeologist has arrived at his conclusions. The theories of a visiting British archaeologist bring the beginning of a chain of events that have a devastating conclusion for all those concerned.

Peter Ackroyd has written a fascinating book about love and obsession. Herr Obermann is obsessed with proving that Homers telling of the Trojan war is true, and it seems will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. We are never quite sure of the validity of his evidence and there are underhand dealings with the excavation finds, and all the while Obermann tells us how the evidence is all there to prove his theory. Amazingly, we never seem to see things from Obermann’s perspective throughout the entire story, but always through Sophia’s, or one of the other characters thoughts and words. Ackroyd tempts us throughout with the mysterious events that surround those who question Obermann’s knowledge and his conclusions about the archaeology of the site; are they the work of Obermann himself, or the result of his prayers to the Greek gods he seems to commune with, or merely just accident?

In other hands, this story could have been a long, drawn out affair, but Ackroyd has written an intriguing, concise tale, but still manages to include beautiful descriptive passages, such as in chapter thirteen when talking of a trip Sophia makes to a local town, where there is a lovely description of the sky and a comparison to the sky over Troy. The Fall of Troy is a wonderful book that I just couldn’t put down, and I would heartily recommend it.


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