Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Penelopiad

Margaret Atwood's re-telling of the myth of Odysseus is witty and engaging. She gives Penelope a real voice and I thought the resulting character was very believable. Much easier to believe her written this way than just as the faithful wife, waiting for 20 years for her husband to come home. The thoughts and feelings she may have had were conveyed in a really interesting way.

The explanation for why Odysseus killed the 12 maids when he returned was interesting. In fact, I found the whole subject of the 12 maids fascinating - including the reference to the possibility of the existence of a moon-worshipping cult, conquered by a more patriarchal system.

While reading it, I kept thinking how interesting this would be to stage (I direct theatre plays from time to time). Penelope's monologues are certainly not boring and the use of the maids as a Greek-type chorus is great - I always love a Greek-type chorus, it really adds something.

The Penelopiad is part of a bigger project (The Myths) of re-relling old tales. Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth is also a part of this project and it's on my reading list this year. The others sound interesting too!

Reading this really made me want to read Homer's The Odyssey - I have it at home so I hope to get to is soon and then maybe re-read Margaret Atwood's version of the story. Maybe next year.

So, a short review for a short book - I give it a B+. It contributes to the A-Z Challenge, the Mythopoeic Challenge, the Novella Challenge and the Once Upon a Time Challenge. That's pretty good value!


Lezlie said...

I read this before I read The Odyssey, so a lot of it went right over my head. I'd really like to read it again now that I've got Homer read!

And you're a director, too? Very cool!

Nice review!
Have a great week, Joanna

joanna said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that I missed quite a bit... thankfully it's an easy one to re-read!

Yep, I like to direct from time to time, I like the different perspective it gives me...

Corinne said...

Thanks for this review. I like Margaret Atwood and hadn't heard of this one. It's been to my TBR list :)

Ana S. said...

I also enjoyed this one a lot - as well as all the other books in the series so far.

Plus, reading this last year pushed me to finally read The Odyssey.

Carl V. Anderson said...

This one has been on my list since last year's Once Upon a Time Challenge! I love mythology and have no excuse (other than a huge pile of books) to not be reading this. I also love the name Penelope!

Unknown said...

I had no idea Margaret Atwood was retelling myths! I enjoy her work and I love a good myth. Thanks for the review! I'm intrigued.

joanna said...

corinne - if you like Margaret Atwood, you'll like this, I think her style is recognisable.

Nymeth - reading it has deifnitely gotten me interested in The Odyssey, we'll see when I actually get to it though!

Carl - this goes so quickly that I'm sure you can fit it in! ;-)

Rachael - it looks like a great project, I think some of the other books involved are worth checking out too!

Paula Weston said...

I'm keen to start reading Atwood, and this sounds like a great place to start - or would you recommend something else?

Either way, I'll add this to my reading list.

Thanks for a great review.

joanna said...

paula - i'd suggest you start with a more 'typical' Atwood... maybe The Robber Bride? I remember really enjoying that one. She's simply a great storyteller, so maybe just have a look at some book covers and see which story appeals to you most...