Sunday 24 February 2013

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood - Book Review

Title: The Penelopiad
Author: Margaret Arwood
Publisher: Canongate Books
Publication Date: 2006 (2003)
Pages: 199
Format: Paperback
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Xmas Gift

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In Homer's account in The Odyssey, Penelope - wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy - is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and - curiously - twelve of her maids." In a contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: "What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?" In Atwood's playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. (Goodreads Synopsis)

I found The Penelopiad to be a very interesting take on the well-known and well-loved story. It was fascinating to consider the tale told from a different point of view and I particularly liked the links with moon cults and the Goddess.

The book is told in Atwood's signature style and I loved the links back to the period with the inclusion of the chorus sections. I found the ending, and the court scene in particular, a little bit of a letdown, but that is only a minor gripe about what is a stunning story.

In conclusion, this is an easy and delightful read that will appeal to Atwood's general fan-base as well as to those interested in the Greek myths and histories.

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