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The Penelopiad (Canongate Myths) Reprint Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 173 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1841957982
ISBN-10: 1841957984
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Half-Dorothy Parker, half-Desperate Housewives.” —The Independent (UK)

“By turns slyly funny and fiercely indignant, Ms. Atwood’s imaginative, ingeniously constructed ‘deconstruction’ of the old tale reveals it in a new—and refreshingly different—light.” —The Washington Times

“Here—at the outset of the twenty-first century, with everyone else looking forward with great intensity and hoping to predict what our mysterious future might bring—is Margaret Atwood, one of the most admired practi­tioners of the novel in North America, taking the measure of the old Odyssey itself with a steady gaze and asking the reader to follow forthwith, even as she coolly rewrites that oral epic from the point of view of the hero’s wife.” —Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate U.S.; Reprint edition (September 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841957984
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841957982
  • Product Dimensions: 4.7 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Many readers find that Atwood's writings have too much edge or are just too dark and raw. The same cannot be said about this new feature. Yes, Atwood is the Queen in the Canadian Publishing Industry, and yes she is a good writer, but her stories for many are just not entertaining. I myself am not normally a fan of Margaret Atwood's writings. Yet this book will rock your socks. It is funny, satirical, and a laugh-out-loud tale.

This is a story that most of us know, the story of Odysseus and Penelope. Yet unlike most tellings of this tale, it is told from Penelope's perspective and she has a great vantage point on the whole `Helen' affair. However our story is told from outside of time. There is an old saying that "dead men don't tell tales" and that may be true, but in this inventive retelling, a dead woman and her chorus of dead girls do just that.

Turning this myth on its head by telling it through women's eyes, Atwood has given us a unique view. Maybe she will challenge us to look at our world and our situations through different lenses from time to time.

How do a dead woman and her twelve maids tell a story with a great deal of jest and a smattering of dark humor? How else could a tale be told by 13 dead women from across the river Styx? Penelope gives us some biographical information about herself seldom included in this tale, and it helps us to understand some of her decisions, and her mistakes. Yet the main focus remains Odysseus' long absence during the war against Troy, and his brutal behavior upon his return.

The story is written as a morality play, or in the format of a Greek Tragedy, however it is done with the humor and temperament of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this "back story" of Penelope, the long-suffering wife of Odysseus. As does the author, Atwood, I too have often wondered what the "real" story was. This was a complicated woman, and her day-to-day life of keeping everything together for 20 years cannot have been any easier than that of the men fighting the war. I thought the book clever and touching. The other reviewer's use of the two sides of a coin is exactly correct, also, and very well described. The hanging of the maids was horrific, but accounted for in an interesting manner in the book. Finally, Atwood's writing style is just lovely. All in all, I enjoyed this small book (readable in an hour). I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
In Homer's "Odyssey," why were twelve of Queen Penelope's handmaidens hanged along with Penelope's unsuccessful suitors? In "The Penelopiad," Margaret Atwood endeavors to answer this unsettling question by allowing Penelope herself to relate the tale from beyond the River Styx, with the twelve hanged maidens acting as chorus in alternating chapters. In Atwood's retelling, the answer has a great deal to do with the violent, patriarchal structure of Greek society, along with the character of Penelope's husband Odysseus, the ultimate con man disguised as hero. "I knew he was tricky and a liar, I just didn't think he would play his tricks and try out his lies on me," Penelope says of him. As for Penelope herself, she struggles to keep herself, her son Telemachus and her kingdom of Ithaca intact during her husband's twenty-year absence. This effort includes making covert allies where and when she can, and blinding herself to a great deal. "I wanted happy endings in those days, and happy endings are best achieved by keeping the right doors locked and going to sleep during the rampages," she says. The maidens, meanwhile, relate through poetry, sea chantey, courtroom sketch and anthropological lecture their side of the tale, and their undying outrage at having been scapegoated and judicially murdered. Throughout this short book, Atwood demonstrates her renowned mastery of both prose and poetic style, her tart and sometimes biting wit, and--above all--her zealous sympathy for the victims of history, who are just as tragic today as they were in Homer's time.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not normally a fan of Margaret Atwood's writings. I often find that she is too dark or has too much edge. Not that it is not good writing, and she is probably currently the most famous of the living Canadian authors, she just isn't usually my thing. I cannot say that for this book.

The Penelopiad is a hilarious romp through a story that most of us know, but told outside of time. There is an old saying that "dead men don't tell tales" and that may be true, but in this inventive retelling, a dead woman and her chorus of dead girls do just that.

Atwood has turned this myth on its head and told it from the female perspective. Unfortunately, our heroine is dead and in Hades, retelling her story from across the river Styx. She is telling her whole story but especially the events around Odysseus' long absence during the war against Troy and that unfortunate event with her cousin Helen.

The story is written in the format of a Greek Tragedy but with the humor and temperament of a comedy. Our chorus is the twelve dead maids, hung strung together on a ship's rope by Odysseus. They appear from time to time, in song, dance, or mock plays and trials to re-enact events from their lives to punctuate Penelope's story.

The twists and turns in this story will make you laugh out loud. A friend of mine who read it stated, `It begs to be read aloud.' And I could not agree more. Pick up the book, get some friends together and read it aloud, over an evening or two together. Much fun will be had with the ghosts of our 13 dead ladies.
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