The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood

“But I’ve always been of a determined nature. Patient, they used to call me. I like to see a thing through to the end.”

You know you’re in for a treat when you come across a retelling of a Greek myth by Margaret Atwood. I love the magical, escapist nature of the Greek myths with their flawed gods and desperate mortals. In this story, we learn more of Penelope, wife of Odysseus, who is known for waiting patiently for twenty years while Odysseus is away fighting battles, killing monsters and sleeping with goddesses.

The part of this story (or one of the parts!) that has clearly troubled Atwood is what Odysseus did when he got home. He slaughtered the many suitors who had gathered around his wife like flies to jam, and also hung twelve of his wife’s maidservants. It is the haunting voices of these twelve young girls that weave through the story, questioning and wondering, whispering and crying.

Atwood also questions whether Penelope was the woman she is described as in The Odyssey. What woman would wait patiently, quietly, when after all of the other men have returned from fighting and your husband is still gone, and the rumours start to arrive of the things he is doing while away. Why would she? What would be her motivation?

I read this book on a train journey, and flew through it. I was addicted. It is funny, clever and genuinely interesting. Highly recommended!


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