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Penelope's Daughter Paperback – October 5, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This novel revisits the story of the Trojan War and its aftermath. As it opens, the war has long ended, and the family of the missing Odysseus is still awaiting his return. Daughter Xanthe is left under the care of servants. She has barricaded herself in her room as a protection against unwanted suitors, passing the time by weaving. The story unfolds as she works at her loom, the designs serving as a framework to her tale. As Xanthe shares her history of ancient Greece, a complex picture emerges. Though the war has ended, the people of Ithaca are still immersed in a battle for their future. In Homer’s saga, women who once wept for their lost men are given the voice and power they deserve. In Corona’s tale, women turn a tragedy into opportunity, finding a way to thrive in a world full of men. Penelope’s Daughter provides new insight into the lives of Homer’s women while giving voice to the inventiveness, creativity, and ingenuity of all those left behind. --Carol Gladstein

About the Author

Laurel Corona is a professor of humanities at San Diego City College and a longtime resident of Southern California. She is the author of The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi's Venice, along with numerous works of nonfiction. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425236625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425236628
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,428,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am the author of PENELOPE'S DAUGHTER (Berkley Books 2010),THE FOUR SEASONS, a novel of Vivaldi's Venice (Hyperion/VOICE 2008), and FINDING EMILIE (S&S/Gallery 2011). I also wrote UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH: A HOLOCAUST STORY OF LOVE AND PARTISAN RESISTANCE (St. Martin's 2008). Please visit my website and blog at, and my special website for PENELOPE'S DAUGHTER, "Xanthe's World," at You can check for appearances in your area at the bottom of this page. I can be reached by e-mail at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By H. Rieseck VINE VOICE on October 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
If you are a fan of The Odyssey you are sure to enjoy the events that transpire in this book. While the struggles of Odysseus to return home to his family following the Battle of Troy are not the focus of this novel - the life of his family at home, and also that of the life of Helen of Troy following the war, are expanded upon. We also learn that after Odysseus set off for war, his wife, Penelope, had a daughter that he never knew about. We explore Xanthe's life throughout the twenty years that Odysseus is gone and it ends just after he returns home.

Each chapter of the book begins with a description by Xanthe of a part of her weaving that she is working on. Xanthe has decided, while locked away in her bedroom, that she will tell her life's story through a giant weaving. She explains choices for different colors, techniques, threads, and as you read on in the chapter, you can see how this weaving mirrors her life. It is a very interesting story telling device, although at the beginning of the story it did leave me a little confused.

Xanthe can break down her life into three distinct sections - and the book is broken down the same way - Ithaca, Sparta, Ithaca. The first part, Ithaca, Xanthe is a very young girl. She doesn't really understand the world that is unfolding around her now that her father has been gone for so long and the politics that are at play. I had some trouble getting into this section - it just felt a little more dry to me than the rest of the book. The second part, Sparta, is Xanthe's life at the court of Helen of Troy. She was sent there to try an escape The Suitors. Here is where the story really picked up for me. This is where Xanthe really grows up and learns more of her role in life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amy M. Bruno on October 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
Penelope's Daughter , written by Laurel Corona, takes Homer's The Odyssey and flips it on its head...focusing instead on what happened to his wife Penelope, daughter Xanthe and son Telemachus during his absence, as narrated to the readers by Xanthe while she weaves the story of her life on her loom.

Most of us know of Homer's The Odyssey from required reading in school, but I have to admit that I don't remember very much of the experience. I can say now that if it was as entertaining as Penelope's Daughter I might have paid a lot more attention! It just took a few pages and I was caught up in Xanthe's world with Corona's entrancing style of writing and exquisite descriptions.

My most favorite part was how the author began each chapter with Xanthe at the loom describing the colors she would use to represent a person, event or place that had meaning to her.

On her brother, Telemachus: "He is woven in green, with little tufted knots of white, like the olive in bloom where we used to play when I was six and he was eight years old."

On her life in Sparta: "I took a charred ember from the fire and, going to the hidden side of my weaving I darkened what I had woven about Sparta until it was caked in black. Sometimes from the front of the loom I stare where I know the black is hiding, imagining little holes burning through the cloth. We think we can control the story we present to the world, but the truth always lies in the background, awaiting its chance to illuminate and scar."

This was my first read by Laurel Corona, but you can be bet I will be back for more! Penelope's Daughter was one phenomenal book and I highly recommend it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Cowell VINE VOICE on November 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
PENELOPE's DAUGHTER takes us to Greece 12th century BC and to the court of the small country of Ithaca where a girl waits for Odysseus the king, the father she has never seen. In an increasingly dangerous world without its ruler, she is exiled to the court of the fabled Helen of Troy, where she grows into womanhood. But Xanthe lives in a world where goddesses are as real as the earth she stands on and the sensual mysteries of becoming a woman and life in two courts are as real as if the author walked in them herself so many years ago. While painfully unraveling the mysteries of her father's absence, her mother's grief, dangerous betrayals and rivalries, and the real fragile women beneath Helen, Xanthe weaves all their stories into cloth with her loom as she steadily grows into her own womanhood and her own first love. A visceral and rich book about a young woman -- in a time when women had very few options -- who seizes her own world and weaves something wonderful of it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sara on June 8, 2012
Format: Paperback

There seems to be a popular genre in modern literature, most likely started by Anita Diamant's The Red Tent: A Novel, that takes popular ancient stories and tells them through the viewpoint of a female protagonist. These stories often downplay the male characters to the point of making them look foolish, while elevating the female characters to near sainthood. The genre delves into the "secret" lives of ancient women that usually involve goddess worship, horrifying puberty rituals, and premarital sexual relations despite their culture's enormous value on virginity. While I always welcome old stories told through new perspectives, especially male-dominated tales told through the eyes of women, I don't like how the authors interject their own modern views of what female empowerment means.

"Penelope's Daughter" fits this genre to a T, flaws and all. It has a very interesting premise: when Odysseus sails away to Troy, Penelope doesn't know she's pregnant with a daughter. This daughter, Xanthe, grows up never knowing her father. The novel is strongest in the first half when we learn of her childhood and how she ended up living with Helen (yes, THE Helen) in Sparta. Once she gets to Sparta, though, the novel takes a strange turn. Xanthe latches on to Helen and practically worships her. Anything Helen tells her to do, she does, despite her initial protests. Go through some crazy puberty ritual that involves unwanted genital touching? OK! Go lose your virginity even though that may bring shame to you and your family? OK!
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