Helen of Troy by Margaret George Penguin, HK$128 Margaret George says in the afterword to her 600 plus-page 'historical' novel that there's no proof that the woman whose face 'launched a thousand ships' ever existed - 'nor an Agamemnon, nor a Menelaus, nor an Achilles, nor a Paris'. Nevertheless, even if oral tradition (resulting in Homer's Iliad) is all we have of Helen and the cast of legendary characters, George is correct in saying that 'we want so badly for them to be real'. But that doesn't mean her depiction of the exquisitely beautiful daughter of Zeus is the woman we'd like her to be. Helen's story, told in the first person as a fictionalised autobiography, is a flat narrative that detracts from the myth surrounding her. A child who was veiled in public and banned from using mirrors, she's married at 16 to one of her many suitors, Menelaus, with whom she has a daughter. Four years later, however, she falls in love with the Trojan prince Paris and decides to ditch her husband and child to run away with him. Thus begins an epic war that leads to the sacking of Troy. Although the story itself is fascinating, the characters, Helen included, are less so. George also doesn't quite nail the language with her Shakespearean-inflected dialogue.