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2.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Disappointing, January 1, 2012
This review is from: The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths) (Hardcover)
This novella by Margaret Atwood is the story of the Odyssey from the perspective of Penelope. In the Odyssey, Odysseus returns home, kills all of the suitors, and hangs twelve of the household maids. In this book Atwood speculates on why he had the maids killed and what may have happended at home while Odysseus was away.

This book is written in a style easy to read and understand. It goes by quickly, and could easily be finished in a few days. Atwood keeps true to the Greek tradition by separating the chapters narrated by Penelope with a chorus consisting of the twelve dead maids. Though most famous for her novels, Atwood is also an accomplished poet, and that shows in these chorus sections, which were the strongest part of the novella.

I already knew the story of the Odyssey when I started this book. I have always thought that Odysseus was kind of a jerk. It seems that he is always being unfaithful, boastful, or distrusting, and sometimes all three at once. I went into this book prepared to dislike him, and I wasn't persuaded otherwise. But he isn't really a main character in this novella. The title is the Penelopiad after all, and this book is definitely about Penelope. Sadly, I found her to be a rather disappointing character. In fact I found her to be pretty annoying. She is completely in awe of Odysseus. She is timid and afraid of his family and too spineless to stand up for either herself or her maids. All she does throughout the whole book is weep, complain that she misses her husband, and whine about how beautiful Helen is. Admittedly, Helen is annoyingly vain, but is jealousy of Helen really the best way to develop Penelope's character? I always pictured Penelope as a strong independent woman who could handle things on her own, not an insecure girl who burst into tears at the slightest provocation.

The chorus chapters from the point of the maids were much more interesting than the chapters narrated by Penelope. I definitely felt sorry for them, little things that they were, but I don't find that their story was enough to carry the book. the poetry was good, but it didn't balance out the rest of the chapters. Overall, I thought that this novella was an easy read and an interesting interpretation of the Odyssey, but it definitely isn't something I would read again. If you are very interested in Greek myth, then maybe you should check it out, but otherwise I wouldn't recommend it.
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