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The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and…
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The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Margaret Atwood (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,6521731,445 (3.59)8 / 374
Member:DiegoIbarra
Title:The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus
Authors:Margaret Atwood (Author)
Info:Knopf Canada (2005), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 216 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Collection, The Myths, Fiction, Margaret Atwood, 2005 books, Alfred A. Knopf Canada books

Work details

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (2005)

  1. 70
    Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin (rarm)
  2. 50
    The Lost Books of The Odyssey: A Novel by Zachary Mason (alalba)
    alalba: Both books offer alternative versions of the Odyssey.
  3. 40
    Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles by Jeanette Winterson (nperrin)
  4. 30
    Medea by Christa Wolf (spiphany)
  5. 20
    The Songs of the Kings by Barry Unsworth (smithal)
    smithal: Unsworth has a bitterly satiric, debunking approach to the Illiad story, which readers who enjoyed the Penelopiad should appreciate.
  6. 21
    Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis (AnnaClaire)
    AnnaClaire: A different author retelling a different myth, but they still seem to fit together nicely.
  7. 32
    Mythology by Edith Hamilton (sibyllacumaea)
  8. 10
    The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel by Nikos Kazantzakis (SilentInAWay)
    SilentInAWay: Picks up where the Penelopiad leaves off...
  9. 00
    Black Ships by Jo Graham (ryvre)
  10. 00
    Achilles by Elizabeth Cook (Booksloth)
  11. 00
    Eine ganz gewöhnliche Ehe. Odysseus und Penelope. Roman by Inge Merkel (spiphany)
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English (171)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (173)
Showing 1-5 of 171 (next | show all)
Having never read Homer's Odyssey, I had no idea what I was getting myself into reading this book. This was an excellent read, quick, to the point and think it should be made into a play. ( )
  nycke137 | Jul 29, 2014 |
An interesting interpretation of the Odyssey from Penelope's perspective. This wasn't at all what I expected really. I thought this would be a very classical retelling (although very much abdridged) of the Odyssey from a woman's perspective. Atwood however brings some wicked humour to the story pointing out what asses most of the men are in classical mythology, sleeping with every beautiful goddess, sorceress or random wench while on their adventures while it is recorded for posterity that they couldn't help doing so as they were constantly being enchanted and put under spells. Although written from a woman's perspective Atwood does not take the feminist high road as can be seen in Penelope's barbed opinions of Helen of Troy, but the book is a refreshing reassessment of the classical premise that women are either pure and virtuous or simply conniving where as male heroes appear to be excused of any hypocrisy at the drop of a hat. I would recommend this to anyone who likes Atwood and is well worth a read for those with even a fleeting interest in classical mythology. ( )
  pcollins | Jul 27, 2014 |
Being a big fan of Greek Mythology, the Odyssey in particular, Margaret Atwood, and the retelling of stories from new points of view, I really thought that this book would be world-altering for me...which it wasn't. :( It was still a good story, but just not as up to par as what I would expect from Atwood.... ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Being a big fan of Greek Mythology, the Odyssey in particular, Margaret Atwood, and the retelling of stories from new points of view, I really thought that this book would be world-altering for me...which it wasn't. :( It was still a good story, but just not as up to par as what I would expect from Atwood.... ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 171 (next | show all)
She channels Penelope by way of Absolutely Fabulous; one can imagine her chain-smoking and swilling wine between cracks about the weakness of men and the misery they visit upon women.
 
Atwood has done her research: she knows that penelopeia means "duck" in Greek; that ribald stories about a Penelope - whether "our Penelope" or someone else - were circulated; and that virginity could be renewed by the blood of male sacrifice.
 
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Epigraph
'... Shrewd Odysseus! ... You are a fortunate man to have won a wife of such pre-eminent virtue! How faithful was your flawless Penelope, Icarius' daughter! How loyally she kept the memory of the husband of her youth! The glory of her virtue will not fade with the years, but the deathless gods themselves will make a beautiful song for mortal ears in honour of the constant Penelope'

      - The Odyssey, Book 24 (191-194)
. . . he took a cable which had seen service on a blue-bowed ship, made one end fast to a high column in the portico, and threw the other over the round-house, high up, so that their feet would not touch the ground. As when long-winged thrushes or doves get entangled in a snare . . . so the women's heads were held fast in a row, with nooses round their necks, to bring them to the most pitiable end. For a little while their feet twitched, but not for very long.

     — The Odyssey, Book 22 (470-473)
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For my family
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Now that I'm dead I know everything.
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The novella version of The Penelopiad issued under Canongate's Myths series should not be combined with the theatrical version of Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad - The Play (Faber and Faber ISBN 978-0571239498 and possibly other editions) due to the different form and content. Thank you.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067697418X, Hardcover)

The internationally acclaimed Myths series brings together some of the finest writers of our time to provide a contemporary take on some of our most enduring stories. Here, the timeless and universal tales that reflect and shape our lives–mirroring our fears and desires, helping us make sense of the world–are revisited, updated, and made new.

Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad is a sharp, brilliant and tender revision of a story at the heart of our culture: the myths about Penelope and Odysseus. In Homer’s familiar version, The Odyssey, Penelope is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes to fight in the Trojan Wars, she manages to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son and, in the face of scandalous rumours, keep over a hundred suitors at bay. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters and sleeping with goddesses, he kills Penelope’s suitors and–curiously–twelve of her maids.

In Homer the hanging of the maids merits only a fleeting though poignant mention, but Atwood comments in her introduction that she has always been haunted by those deaths. The Penelopiad, she adds, begins with two questions: what led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? In the book, these subjects are explored by Penelope herself–telling the story from Hades — the Greek afterworld - in wry, sometimes acid tones. But Penelope’s maids also figure as a singing and dancing chorus (and chorus line), commenting on the action in poems, songs, an anthropology lecture and even a videotaped trial.

The Penelopiad does several dazzling things at once. First, it delves into a moment of casual brutality and reveals all that the act contains: a practice of sexual violence and gender prejudice our society has not outgrown. But it is also a daring interrogation of Homer’s poem, and its counter-narratives — which draw on mythic material not used by Homer - cleverly unbalance the original. This is the case throughout, from the unsettling questions that drive Penelope’s tale forward, to more comic doubts about some of The Odyssey’s most famous episodes. (“Odysseus had been in a fight with a giant one-eyed Cyclops, said some; no, it was only a one-eyed tavern keeper, said another, and the fight was over non-payment of the bill.”)

In fact, The Penelopiad weaves and unweaves the texture of The Odyssey in several searching ways. The Odyssey was originally a set of songs, for example; the new version’s ballads and idylls complement and clash with the original. Thinking more about theme, the maids’ voices add a new and unsettling complex of emotions that is missing from Homer. The Penelopiad takes what was marginal and brings it to the centre, where one can see its full complexity.

The same goes for its heroine. Penelope is an important figure in our literary culture, but we have seldom heard her speak for herself. Her sometimes scathing comments in The Penelopiad (about her cousin, Helen of Troy, for example) make us think of Penelope differently – and the way she talks about the twenty-first century, which she observes from Hades, makes us see ourselves anew too.

Margaret Atwood is an astonishing storyteller, and The Penelopiad is, most of all, a haunting and deeply entertaining story. This book plumbs murder and memory, guilt and deceit, in a wise and passionate manner. At time hilarious and at times deeply thought-provoking, it is very much a Myth for our times.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Homer's Odyssey is not the only version of the story. Mythic material was originally oral, and also local -- a myth would be told one way in one place and quite differently in another. I have drawn on material other than the Odyssey, especially for the details of Penelope's parentage, her early life and marriage, and the scandalous rumors circulating about her.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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