Lyn Elliott's Reviews > An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic

An Odyssey by Daniel Mendelsohn
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2018-best, autobiography-memoir, classics, jewish-culture-and-history, lit-crit

I read this five months ago as part of my preparation for an exciting group read of Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey.
As so often happens with books I deeply appreciate, I mean to re-read, take detailed notes and then write a considered review. And then, as also often happens, my reading and my life move on and I don’t get back to the book that gave me so much.
When I finished Mendelssohn, I promised myself and GR that I would write a thoughtful, referenced review, and began the noting process. But now it’s mid-June, and I’ve decided to just write what has stayed with me since the beginning of the year.

I had not previously thought about the relationships between fathers and sons as a main theme in The Odyssey, but once it was pointed out, it is very clearly a plot driver.
Mendelssohn cleverly interwove stories of his relationship with his own father with his ongoing class discussions of Odysseus and Telemachus, and was often very funny in describing their differences both in Daniel’s classes and outside them.
The weekly classroom discussions of the poem could have been clunky, but instead threw up opportunities to explore different interpretations of the text, coming from widely divergent viewpoints. Where there were points of difference over the meaning of individual words or phrases, Mendelssohn gives us his own translations.
The structure is similar to The Odyssey, as the different narratives intertwine, circling each other, shifting time frames.

It’s written in an easily accessible style, a major achievement for a work based in such deep scholarship.
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Reading Progress

January 2, 2018 – Shelved
January 3, 2018 – Started Reading
January 17, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-best
January 17, 2018 – Shelved as: autobiography-memoir
January 17, 2018 – Shelved as: classics
January 17, 2018 – Shelved as: jewish-culture-and-history
January 17, 2018 – Shelved as: lit-crit
January 18, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Cynda (new) - added it

Cynda My jaw dropped. I had to close it. This looks so great.


message 2: by Lyn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lyn Elliott It is very good and surprisingly easy to read given its subject. Won’t get the review done till next week.


message 3: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope Please, Lyn. Do post your review.


message 4: by Lyn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lyn Elliott You’ve given me the spur I needed, Kalliope. I’ve been immersed in other reading, including the introductions to Fagles’ and Emily Wilson’s translations ahead of Kris’s group read of Wilson, and I feel better equipped now to review Mendelsohn.


James Murphy Your review makes me think I should read this.


message 6: by Lyn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lyn Elliott James, it is definitely worth reading - and fun to read, too.


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