Book Talk: The Penelopiad8:30:00 PM
I'm gonna make this quick...because it’s Sunday evening and I need to get ready for work tomorrow. Another week has passed and I’m still woefully behind on my book posts. But I did start 3 books this weekend (and finished one of them!) as well as adding to my ever growing list of TBR books. So let’s start with the book I did finish. It’s The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. More of a novella than an actual novel (I was able to knock it out in just a few hours), it’s definitely a fast, fun read, particularly if you are familiar with the Odyssey and Greek mythology. The story is a retelling of the tale of Odysseus and Penelope, from Penelope’s perspective.
Like many who read the Odyssey, Atwood was haunted by the fate of the maids who were hung upon Odysseus’ return to Ithaca, and it is this plot point that Atwood focuses on when bringing Penelope to life.
The Penelope of this story is not one I ever expected, in the sense that she is very much aware of how events unfolded - she tells the story in the present day! In fact, the first line of the novella is, “Now that I am dead, I know everything.” How can you not be captivated by a first line like that?! Atwood does an amazing job of humanizing Penelope, and her darkly wry humor left me laughing while also thinking It’s so wrong that I think this is funny. Interspersed with Penelope’s narration of her marriage and life (and her run-ins with Helen of Troy) are chapters from the perspective of the maids who were killed, who mostly relate their feelings about the betrayal through super creepy childlike rhymes and songs about their deaths. While I did ultimately enjoy the book, it would probably be alienating to those unfamiliar with the Iliad or the Odyssey. It’s not meant to be a standalone work of historical fiction - it’s length makes that fairly obvious. It’s a story you’ve got to (already) know to love.