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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Odyssey You Didn't Know About
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...
Published on October 5, 2010 by H. Rieseck

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story marred by modern feminist viewpoints
*Spoilers*

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...
Published on June 8, 2012 by Sara


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Odyssey You Didn't Know About, October 5, 2010
This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (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. Then the third part, Ithaca, is her return to Ithaca and the family reunites with Odysseus. It really is a coming of age story for Xanthe.

The author creates a very vivid Greek world. The descriptions of the traditions, coming of age rites and initiations, and worship of the Gods and Goddesses were beautifully rendered and well researched. The characters that were very much marginalized in The Odyssey and even non-existent characters were fully fleshed out in the pages of Penelope's Daughter. You were really able to see what drove them to the decisions that they made and who they were. One character whose story really blew my mind was Helen of Troy. Xanthe learns a lot about the circumstances surrounding why Helen went to Troy. You also get into the back story of Helen's life prior to Troy. That was the most interesting and touching part to me.

If you are a fan of The Odyssey or a fan of Greek mythology this is a book that should certainly not be missed. You will not be disappointed by the tale that unfolds and will be completely sucked into the story of Xanthe.

This book was received from the publisher in exchange for a review and this was also posted on my blog.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous read!, October 7, 2010
This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A sensual novel about a young woman in ancient Greece, November 6, 2010
By 
Stephanie Cowell (New York, New York United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars entertaining ancient Greek thriller, October 9, 2010
This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (Paperback)
On the Island of Ithaca, Penelope gives birth to a daughter Xanthe. Her child's father Odysseus has not met his offspring as he away on adventures for two decades. While the Cephallenians king is on his mystical journey, Xanthe is protected from the usurpers who want her brother the heir dead and her married to one of them, so they can rule.

Penelope tries to keep her child safe by faking Xanthe's death and dispatching her to Sparta to live with her cousin, Helen of Troy. Under her legendary relative's protection, Xanthe observes an assassination attempt on her host that she believes was instigated by Helen's acrimonious daughter Hermione. Xanthe meets a prince she likes, but the gods end their relationship as she must go home to her loom in Ithaca to prepare for the return of her wandering father.

This is an interesting perspective by someone who never met her father when his fame as an adventurer grew. Building off of Greek mythology, in particular Helen of Troy, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Penelope's daughter is an entertaining ancient Greek thriller that focuses on a ruling dysfunctional family during a period of sedition. Told by Xanthe through her weaves, fans will enjoy her account of about men lusting for power.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story marred by modern feminist viewpoints, June 8, 2012
By 
This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (Paperback)
*Spoilers*

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! Through Helen, the author spreads her own modern viewpoints about female sexuality and empowerment, which are out of place in a story that takes place 3,000 years ago. For instance, Xanthe ends up "dating" and having sex with the man of her choice before the two of them get married. It's as if the author couldn't stand to allow her beloved protagonist to actually have a more realistic arranged marriage while still a virgin.

The final straw for me, though, was her portrayal of Odysseus. The entire novel builds up to the point when the hero finally meets the daughter he never knew he had. So what happens? He blows her off. And no wonder - Xanthe is introduced to him in dirty rags by a servant, just after he slaughtered the suitors. She should have been introduced by Penelope, beautifully dressed to greet her father. The author couldn't even give her a nice introduction to her father. Because, like other novels in the genre, the men are just ignorant brutes who could care less about women unless they can be used to serve their needs. God forbid Odysseus, or another male character including Telemachus or Orestes, be seen in a positive light. In fact, the only good male character is Xanthe's lover - but of course the protagonist can't be portrayed having a boyfriend who is deeply flawed like the rest of the men in her life.

Overall, I loved the story and most of the characters, but didn't like the anachronistic viewpoints or the graphic sexual descriptions. Otherwise, this could have been a truly great novel. The author did do a good job of doing her research and accurately describing the clothing and women's lives at the time. Which makes scenes such as Helen telling Xanthe she should take a lover all the more puzzling.

As a better novel in the same vein, I would highly recommend Homer's Daughter. Robert Graves (Penguin Modern Classics). The novel goes on the premise that Homer was actually Nausicaa in "The Odyssey". It has a strong female protagonist without the sex or anti-male sentiment. I would also recommend Hercules, My Shipmate, also by Robert Graves, which portrays goddess worship and strong male and female characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Penelope's Daughter doesn't live up to her Mom's reputation, May 10, 2013
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I chose this rating because it's ok as a read for anyone who does not know any of the (various) original versions of Penelope and her husband Odysseus. The main characters are rendered very thin for anyone who can supply his/her own previously acquired notions and sandwich Penelope's daughter into them. It's definitely in the category of chick-lit although it might be kind of boring for many "chicks" and for me although I don't consider myself a chick anymore. If the women are not weaving (which they do an awful lot), they are planning to honor or honoring a goddess (mostly Hera, although Athena gets a nod), thinking about how to dress for an occasion, and thinking about a husband (where he might be, if he's coming back, or who he'll be). Sex is satisfactory if the guy shows up; otherwise you're on your own. Helen is gorgeous and obviously knows how to dress to her advantage, but we knew that already. Penelope is faithful and having a hard time with the suitors who really only want her money or rather Odysseus' kingdom Ithaca which isn't a whole lot to write home about, which we already knew as well. Odysseus does eventually get home etc etc etc.and kills them off. The characterization of most men is especially thin - they do or do not wear armor (depending on the situation), they are often gross (which might correspond to historical reality), but there is absolutely no sense of why they entered history as larger than life figures. I only finished the book because my reading group chose it. It'll be an interesting discussion because one of our members is a professor of Classics.
There are many authors since antiquity who have elaborated on the ancient myths and their characters and many of these have become part of very high ranking world literature. The most recent one that I read before Penelope's Daughter was Ransom by David Malouf, 2009, which is on my shelf where I keep books that I will read again and again. By contrast, Penelope's Daughter would be donated to the public library if I hadn't bought it on my kindle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Odyssey Revisited, May 15, 2013
By 
Smoky Zeidel (Los Angeles, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (Paperback)
I confess: I'm a junky for books that retell the story of the Trojan War, the Odyssey, and/or Helen of Troy. My favorites? Margaret George's Helen of Troy, Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad,and Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Firebrand. Now, I'm adding Laurel Corona's fine book, Penelope's Daughter, to that list.

The book is told from the perspective of Xanthe, the daughter Odysseus never knew he had. Don't go looking for Xanthe in The Odyssey; you won't find her. She's strictly the creation of Corona's fertile imagination. But her story is one that could have been, if Homer hadn't dismissed women as important characters in history. No matter. Homer himself could not have written so heart-felt and compelling a story.

Xanthe is a beloved princess of Ithaca, but when the suitors arrive on Penelope's doorstep eager to claim Odysseus's wife and kingdom, Xanthe is sent to live in Sparta with Helen and Menelaus to protect her from the unwanted advances of the suitors, all vulgar men who would quite happily rape and impregnate the princess if it meant they would win the kingdom. Here she grows from childhood to womanhood under the love and guidance of none other than Helen herself. In Sparta, Xanthe learns the ways of the goddess and both the travails and pleasures of being a woman. Here, she falls in love.

But when Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca, Xanthe is forced to return home. Will the father she never knew marry her off to one of his cronies as some sort of reward for their loyalty, or to one of Penelope's suitors? Or, just might he allow Xanthe to wed the man she loves?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I know Laurel Corona. She and I signed books together at this year's Whittier College Meet the Authors Book Faire. I found her personable and engaging. She did not ask me to review her book, nor does she know yet that I have reviewed it. But in that same spirit, know I am being honest when I say I found this book mesmerizing and difficult to put down. Corona is a gifted storyteller. I cannot wait to read another one of her books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Odysseus Left Behind, April 23, 2011
This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (Paperback)
With Odysseus' disappearance following Troy, Penelope is in dire straights. Her son, a young boy meant to one day rule in his father's place, is growing up without a strong male influence and it shows. Xanthe, the daughter Odysseus doesn't even know he has, is in danger of being raped by and then forced into marriage to any of the numerous men wanting to insert themselves into rule (pun intended). In order to save her daughter from a horrible fate and to help to keep Odysseus' kingdom intact for the husband she's certain will one day return, Penelope takes drastic measures. As a result, Xanthe spends the remainder of her youth under the tutelage of the infamous Helen.

It's safe to say that I was never a happier English major than I was the day I completed studying ancient literature such as The Odyssey. I'm not one for epic poetry. So,when Penelope's Daughter was pitched to me, I can't actually say what it was that made me say, "Send it my way." It certainly wasn't Homer. Realizing I had read and enjoyed Laurel Corona's first novel The Four Seasons, which made me much happier and must have been what prompted me to say yes.

In telling the story of a young woman whose future is at stake and can change at any moment based on the whim of almost any man, Penelope's Daughter reminds me of the stories Michelle Moran tells of Ancient Rome. It's not just the time and place. Instead of it feeling like social commentary about a time long ago, these authors take women who are outwardly powerless and develop them into courageous characters readers will care about and champion.

There is a good deal more graphic debauchery that takes place in Corona's Greece than in Moran's Rome. I'm still not sure how I feel about the role that the religious festival Helen presided over played in the novel. While teaching young women to take joy in their own bodies and ownership of their sexuality is a good thing, those scenes in and around the cave didn't sit well with me. They weren't enough to change my opinion of the book, but they did leave me feeling uncomfortable.

I enjoyed Penelope's Daughter. In comparing it to The Four Seasons, I can see her growth as a story teller. Xanthe's story flowed so smoothly. It involved me so much that I found myself researching the basic plot lines of The Odyssey to enhance my reading. That is really saying something. Laurel Corona is an author to keep an eye on if you read Historical Fiction. Given her first two novels, you won't find yourself in the same place twice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Women Behind the Homer's Odysseus, March 30, 2011
This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (Paperback)
I really could not predict this one but Laurel was able to get me up to speed on the history surprisingly pretty fast. It is hard to get up to speed on one of the greatest epics ever written. Homer's epic poem The Odyssey follows Odysseus all over the place especially his tale of events in The Trojan War. The one thing I knew for sure was that after the war lost for some twenty years. I do remember thinking about what did his family do while he was off tearing up things all over the place? What had they endured in those twenty years?

This is where Laurel introduces her fabulous heroine Xanthe. The daughter Odysseus never knew existed. It is hard to imagine but Odysseus did have a family. When he went off to defend Helen in The Trojan War he left behind a wife (Penelope), a son, and a daughter that was conceived right before he left. Xanthe never knew her father but she did have her family and the good people who served her family faithfully.

Sadly a kingdom with out its king will suffer. Xanthe and her beautiful mother could only hold out for so long against the nasty would be suitors for so long before Xanthe would be in extreme danger of abduction by the suitors. Scary as it was the truth the suitors were there for one reason and they were driven by the sole ambition of the lust for a crown. For Xanthe's protection her mother set into action an intricate plot to fake her own daughter's death and spirit her away to safety. The safe zone was to her mother's cousin's home and the best part is that the cousin is one of my favorite historical women. The infamous Helen of Troy. The adventure took off from there and as Xanthe grew into womanhood she learned more than she ever anticipated she ever could from the one woman who took away her father from her. This novel was sent to me by the publisher for review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The women of Homer find a voice, January 30, 2011
This review is from: Penelope's Daughter (Paperback)
Penelope's Daughter explores the women of Homer's The Odyssey, specially Xanthe, the little-known daughter of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, and his wife Penelope who famously fought off hoards of suitors while patiently waiting 10 years for her husband to return from Troy. The novel is told through Xanthe's eyes, after she is barricaded in her rooms and begins to weave a tapestry of her life. As the threads come together, the fascinating story of Xanthe's life unfolds.

When Xanthe was young, life was good in Ithaca. She and her brother were able to move freely throughout the island and interact with the people without issue. Then Odysseus went off to Troy to retrieve the infamous Helen from Paris' clutches, Xanthe became older and reached womanhood -and the world changed for Xanthe. She was escorted everywhere by guards, and leering suitors invade the palace, hoping to snare Penelope or her daughter. To protect Xanthe, Penelope sends her to live with an unexpected cousin in Sparta- Helen herself. As Xanthe settles into Helen's household, she grows into womanhood and find unexpected things about herself.

Just as Xanthe weaves a fascinating tale of her life, Corona weaves a vivid, fabulously written story that paints a fascinating and little-known picture of the women of Homer. Finally given a voice, theses women finally get the opportunity to stand on their own and prove that they may have been misrepresented in Homer's classic epic poem, especially poor Helen. Corona's story telling and character development are masterful. It completely drew me in and kept me filling page right up to the very end.

Though Penelope's Daughter is, at its heart, a coming-of-age story, it's a fascinating tapestry of the women of Homer and well-drawn exploration of a woman who is nothing more than a footnote. Ideal for fans of historicals set in the ancient world or for fans of female-powered literature.
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Penelope's Daughter
Penelope's Daughter by Laurel Corona (Paperback - October 5, 2010)
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