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The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths)by Margaret Atwood
Synopses & Reviews
In Homer's account in The Odyssey, Penelope — wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy — is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumours, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and — curiously — twelve of her maids.
In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged Maids, asking: "What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?" In Atwood's dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality — and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.
"Drawing on a range of sources, in addition to The Odyssey, Atwood scripts the narrative of Penelope, the faithful and devoted wife of Odysseus and her 12 maids, who were killed upon the master's return. Atwood proposes striking interpretations of her characters that challenge the patriarchal nature of Greek mythology. The chapters transition between the firsthand account of Penelope and the chorus of maids as listeners are taken from Penelope's early life to her afterlife. Laural Merlington charmingly delivers the witty and perceptive Penelope with realistic inflection and emphasis. Some of her vocal caricatures seem over the top, but most voices maintain a resemblance to our perceptions of these mythic people. The maids are presented as a saddened chorus by a cloning of Merlington's voice. These dark figures speak straightforwardly in their accusations of Penelope and Odysseus, while, at other times, they make use of rhyming. This format works well, though sometimes the cadence and rhyming scheme are off beat. This benefits the production by creating an eerie resonance and haunting demeanor that enhances this engaging tale." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Along with her presentation of the hallucinatory maids and Penelope's straight talk about her husband...Atwood's brilliance emerges in the skillful way she has woven her own research on the anthropological underpinnings of Homer's epic into the patterns of her own stylized version of the poem." Chicago Tribune
"Here, amid the moon cults and palace of women and the returned king...is fabulous Atwood territory." New York Times
Telling the story of Homer's Odyssey from the point of view of Penelope and her 12 hanged maids, the bestselling author of Oryx and Crake draws on Greek mythology for Volume 2 in the Myths series.
Margaret Atwood returns with a shrewd, funny, and insightful retelling of the myth of Odysseus from the point of view of Penelope. Describing her own remarkable vision, the author writes in the foreword, Ive chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus, which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of the Odyssey: What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in the Odyssey doesnt hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. Ive always been haunted by the hanged maids and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself.” One of the high points of literary fiction in 2005, this critically acclaimed story found a vast audience and is finally available in paperback.
About the Author
Nominated for the first ever Man Booker International Prize representing the best writers in contemporary fiction, Margaret Atwood is the author of more than 35 internationally acclaimed works of fiction, poetry and critical essays.
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