Beauty's Daughter“Beauty’s Daughter – The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy” by Carolyn Meyer

Harcourt, $16.99, 329 pp.

Carolyn Meyer will discuss “Beauty’s Daughter” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 at Alamosa Books, 8810 Holly NE (near the northwest corner of Ventura and Paseo del Norte), Albuquerque

By David Steinberg

No women in Greek mythology was fairer than Helen.

Helen was queen of Sparta but she’s generally referred to as Helen of Troy.

The often-told story is that Paris abducted Helen and took her to his hometown, the powerful city of Troy. That triggered the Trojan War.

In her new novel for readers 12 and older, Albuquerque author Carolyn Meyer writes that Helen runs off with Paris. Same result – the Trojan War.

In fleeing, mother Helen leaves behind Hermione, the daughter alluded to in the book’s title.

“We only know that she was red-haired and that she was beautiful like her mother,” Meyer said in an interview.

Feeling abandoned, Hermione stows away in one of the Greek ships that sails to Troy to retrieve Helen. (You may have heard the phrase “the face that launched a thousand ships.” Well, that was a reference to Helen, not Hermione.)

In the novel, Hermione forlornly wants the gods to bring her mother back and end the war. But Hermione is also searching for love. Will it be Orestes or Pyrrhus?

Meyer can’t clearly recollect why she was especially interested in writing about Hermione.

“I was intrigued with the ancient world when I was working on (the novel) ‘Cleopatra Confesses.’ I guess I looked at too many maps,” she said with a laugh.

“I’ve thought about Helen of Troy and I’ve always been interested in what lay in the background, what were were the early, informative things that made her an interesting and famous figure.”

Meyer’s shifting her focus to Hermione may have sprouted from her reading that Helen of Troy had a daughter.

“I thought, ‘What would it have been like to be that child with that kind of mother?'” she said.

And so a manuscript for a novel began to grow from that seed.

Like Hermione, Meyer said she herself had a beautiful mother.

“I was both the daughter she expected,” said Meyer, an only child. “I think she thought she’d have a daughter like her. She was an outgoing, talented pianist.

“And here I came. I was very shy. I was a homely kid, wore thick classes from age five, had buck teeth.”

Her nickname in grade school in small-town Pennsylvania was “Professor Pisspot.”

Being an only child made it tougher on the adolescent Carolyn because there were no siblings to share the spotlight that her mother shined on her.

As a result, Meyer said, she has deep sympathy for children of mothers who are quite well known – actresses, concert pianists, famous writers.

The struggles between mothers and daughters in these families appealed to her in writing “Beauty’s Daughter.”

In her “Note from the Author” at the back of the novel, Meyer says that Homer’s “The Iliad” has a famous description of the Trojan War.

Because you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, Meyer lists the names and titles of her book’s main characters on two-plus pages.

She sees a struggle there between mothers and daughters that appealed to her in writing “Beauty’s Daughter.”

Meyer is the well-known author of more than 50 books for young readers including the popular Young Royals series.

Her website is http://www.readcarolyn.com

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