Ithaka Paperback – August 1, 2007
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About the Author
- Publisher : Harcourt Paperbacks; First edition (August 1, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0152061045
- ISBN-13 : 978-0152061043
- Reading age : 14 years and up
- Lexile measure : 740L
- Grade level : 9 - 12
- Item Weight : 8.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.5 x 0.96 x 7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,824,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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i was really excited to see this title, especially after having read Troy and really liking it. i am personally intrigued by greek mythology and the stories about the trojan war, and having the ability to read them in young adult form is just perfecto for me.
Ithaka focuses mainly on Klymene and her interactions with the other characters - the main of whom are Penelope (Queen of Ithaka, Klyemene is her personal handmaid / honorary daughter), Ikarios (Klymene's twin brother), Telemachus (Son of Penelope and Oddyseus and first love of Klymene), Melantho (the newest handmaid to Penelope, and rather conniving and slutty actually), and then the suitors (the dozens of men living at the palace for like 6 months waiting for Penelope to choose one of them).
as with Troy, there is a casual incorporation of the gods from Olympus and they are only seen by some characters. this element helps keep the story flow to the nature of a greek myth nicely. the god's don't consistently intervene, which is nice, but when they do you get a glimpse of them and their intentions before they vanish.
the best way that i can think to describe Ithaka is that it's a multi-layer love story complete with betrayal, murder, sadness, and hope. i did feel like it got a little long, however, that may have been the attempt by the author to help portray the extreme waiting that Penelope did so faithfully (well, most of the time) for Odysseus and to help the reader realize just how long and unpleasant the icky suitors made time at the palace for everyone in the meantime.
i couldn't help feeling like some of the characters were more shallow than i'd hoped for. while i really dug Klymene as a caring, devoted, and genuine person, i was let down by Telemachus, completely forgot about Ikarios at times, and felt that while Melantho provided a solid element of bitchyness that was necessary for the twists in the story, that she was a pretty underdeveloped character herself. i felt like they had to be deeper than they were portrayed, and that really bugged me.
overall, i appreciated the take on the flip side of the Odyssey from the palace point of view, and particularly from Kylemene's perspective. similiar to Troy in that the main characters are part of the palace life, Geras paints a vivid picture of that life and the surrounding landscape of the island of Ithaka and at times i really did see what she was describing. the story doesn't end perfectly, which is refreshing, and there are some serious heartaches along the way. Geras deals with first loves, doubt, and hope in an interesting and serious way.
fave quotes: "'Sorrow', said Odysseus, 'has to be borne, or we might as well die on our way out of our mothers' wombs. Life is threaded through with it, but you must face it and grieve and carry on if you're to be a real man. It's easier to do that when you've got your family around you. When you're in your own house. Home...that's the best that we can hope for this side of Hades, and it's worth fighting and even dying for. Ithaka is worth every bit of agony I've gone through to get here.'" (299)
"The only answer was a shrug, and Klymene sighed. She was used to the way men sometimes behaved, but it was exhausting. The wouldn't ever admit, straight out, what was wrong, but waited for the thing - whatever it was that was bothering them - to be drawn out slowly like a thorn from an animal's paw. You had to ask questions. They had to be the right questions. You had to guess and cajole and tease the pain out of them, and it could be a tedious business." (319) - a good example of Klymene's character also.
fix er up: i really wanted deeper character development from others besides Klymene!
Adèle Geras, whose previous book TROY was a retelling of THE ILIAD, has now taken on THE ODYSSEY. ITHAKA is the story of THE ODYSSEY told by those waiting for Odysseus's return. While it doesn't contain the same adventures as Odysseus's travels, Geras's treatment of the material lends quiet dignity to the events as told by an ordinary teenage girl, and fleshes out the story as it might have been experienced by women. Klymene is handmaiden to Odysseus's patient wife Penelope. While Penelope spends her days weaving and waiting for her husband's return, Klymene experiences the changes that are part of growing up, and does her part to keep Ithaka ready for the return of a king she has never known.
Klymene begins to understand the difficulty of Penelope's task to wait "unchanged and unchanging" when she falls in love with Telemachus, Odysseus's impetuous son. Telemachus only has eyes for Melantho, a beautiful and treacherous girl from a neighboring kingdom who has come to serve in Penelope's household. Klymene's situation is made more difficult by her ability to see the gods, whose appearance around the household usually signals trouble. She is also keeper of the household's many secrets, some of which could mean the difference between life and death for Ithaka's inhabitants.
Geras adds some interesting twists to an already well-known story, detailing aspects that are muted in Homer's original. The sinister arrival of the suitors who plan to marry Penelope and rule Ithaka is expanded upon in the book. Mocking Ithaka's famed hospitality, the suitors defile a once peaceful land with greed, rape and murder, involving Klymene, her family and friends.
Penelope is also allowed some humanity within the confines of her impossible task. Geras questions the inherent sexism of THE ODYSSEY by challenging the double standard of Odysseus's infidelity through the course of his adventures, while his wife Penelope waits faithfully at home. The conflict Penelope faces in actually being attracted to one of the suitors makes her wait more poignant.
Geras gives the ordinary events of adolescence --- unrequited love, outgrown friendships, tense relationships with elders --- a mythic resonance by associating them with a tale as old and beloved as THE ODYSSEY. Critics have long argued about whether life in the ancient world was lived or understood in the same way it is now. We know some things are very different, like the polytheistic system of belief prevalent in the ancient world. Lives were shorter. Yet, by translating the ancient world of THE ODYSSEY into contemporary idiom, Geras brings new life to a work I first experienced only as a dull classroom assignment. There is a reason these stories have survived millenniums and are reinterpreted by successive generations. After reading ITHAKA, I wanted to return to THE ODYSSEY and read it again.
--- Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood
The novel starts out with fresh characters in their early years. I have always enjoyed when an author does this because I feel I can get to know the characters better if I start out reading about them when they were younger. I'ts like you kind of watch them "grow up." So i applaud Adele Geras on this. Then as you get farther into the book, events from the greek story begin to take place. Like how Penelope is forever waiting for her husband's return from the war in Troy. I absolutely love how the author invents new characters and intertwines them with the real characters in the old story. It spices up the story even more and keeps you wanting more. These new characters inserted in the story are also developed very well. An example would be how Klymene is portrayed as she grows up. At first she believes she is in love with Telemachus but soon finds her own heart is with a different man. Many love triangles form in this book which just adds to the already ancient story plot of Penelope fighting off the suitors coming to take her hand in marriage.
So in conclusion I rate this book four out of five stars. Why did I not give this book five starts you ask? I did not give it five stars because I found the end to not suit this book. It did not give a very good sense of closure and I was extremly dissapointed to have such an abrupt ending. Althought it can be good to leave a reader hungry for more, this left me almost to hungry. Otherwise this book was great and deserves to be read endless times.