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Monday, August 11, 2008

Book Update - Penelopiad

Before this year I had never read a Margaret Atwood book. Since then I've read The Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin. I've been a fan of both books. So when I was walking by our local antique store and saw a cheap hardcover edition of her book Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus I thought I'd check it out.

I've read excerpts of the Odyssey by Homer so I knew a little bit of the back story. But don't worry too much if you haven't. The back story is:

Penelope and Odysseus are married and he is soon sent off to fight in the Trojan War. Penelope is none too happy because A) She is newly married B) She just had a baby C) Helen (her beautiful cousin) started the whole mess D) The war lasts 12 years.

So after waiting 12 years, the war is over and Odysseus should be on his way home but gets waylaid...for numerous years. You can read about his exploits in the Odyssey. So Penelope waits at home, tries to stave off suitors who want to marry her, take care of her lands, and raise a son. When Odysseus finally returns, he proceeds to kill off all her suitors and hangs twelve of her maids. Penelope tells her story from the afterlife and explains why Odysseus decided to kill off the suitors and more importantly...why he would hang the twelve maids.

At first I thought Penelopiad was a pretty good story. I liked Penelope's viewpoint. Whereas the Odyssey glamorizes tales, spins yarns, etc...Penelope is more realistic and often cynical about what is going on. In some ways it reminded me of Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson but without Winterson's flair for the poetic. But towards the end I thought that perhaps Atwood should leave this type of story-telling to others. Points were driven...and then repeatedly driven. And some of the writing was a bit forced. is a very small and short book so if you want to give it a try, check it out. Be prepared for quite a bit of, shall I say, feminist leanings.

Since I love's a couple more interesting versions:

Also reviewed by:

Adventures in Reading
Lost in a Good Story
Books I Done Read
Things Mean A Lot
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Bold. Blue. Adventure.


  1. If you like Margaret Atwood you should also pick up Cat's Eye and Oryx and Crake, two of my favorites from her.

  2. I'm glad you reviewed this, because like you I really enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin. The idea of this book sounds so good, but I don't think any bloggers have really loved it. :(

  3. I'm not as concerned about the feminist leanings simply because I sort of expected that.

    I have read sooo many reviews of this book and each time I swear I'm going to pick it up the next time I am at the bookstore. I really do want to give this one a try.

  4. I don't think I've read an Atwood book yet that doesn't have feminist leanings. I really love her writing but for some reason this would hasn't really appealed to me a whole lot. I think Alias Grace will be my next by her.

  5. I really need to pick up Sexing the Cherry. Jeanette Winterson also wrote a book for the Canongate Myth Series, Weight, and I really recommend it. I think I enjoyed it even more than the Penelopiad.


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