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Archive: Other Books > The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood / 3.5 Stars

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message 1: by Kimber (new)

Kimber (kimberwolf) | 841 comments The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
3.5 Stars

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad is a retelling of the Greek mythological tale The Odyssey, from the point of view of Odysseus' wife, Penelope, with some asides from the 12 doomed maids in the form of a chorus. Penelope provides a new perspective on how she was wooed, what her life with (and without) Odysseus was like while he was adventuring, and the behind-the-scenes story of what really occurred when all of the suitors descended on her property and she had to hold them off until Odysseus' return. Was she really as demure and faithful to her wedding vows as the myths portray her? The story changes from one perspective to the next, as Penelope and the maids have their say in addition to the traditional mythology.
The story is told with sly humor and has a young adult feel to it. It was a quick and enjoyable read.


message 2: by NancyJ (last edited May 18, 2020 08:46PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5572 comments I really liked this book, but I think timing is everything. I read it shortly after reading Circe and reviewing The Odyssey, so I knew the story fairly well. I also read it at the height of the me-too movement, so I was much more sensitive to Atwood's feminist messages than I might have been before. If I read it at a different time l wouldn't have noticed a lot of the details in the rhymes. (I'm sure some of the details still went over my head.)

Odysseus is often viewed as a hero, but he did some terrible things. He killed the men who harassed his wife and ate all their food, but he also killed the "maids" who were abused by those men. The humor in the songs by the chorus was quite cutting and angry. She started off hinting at the rapes and hangings, but she got quite explicit. I also took it as a comment about the double standard in the accusations toward Penelope. Odysseus certainly wasn't faithful to her.

By the end, I wanted to cheer on behalf of women speaking up everywhere.


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