- 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: 192 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Penelopiad (Canongate Myths) Reprint Edition
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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.
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By turns slyly funny and fiercely indignant, Ms. Atwood’s imaginative, ingeniously constructed deconstruction’ of the old tale reveals it in a newand refreshingly differentlight.” The Washington Times
Hereat the outset of the twenty-first century, with everyone else looking forward with great intensity and hoping to predict what our mysterious future might bringis 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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She tells her side of the story of Helen of Troy, what Odysseus was up to, her maid's actions, and the suitors who
tried to woo her during Odysseus' absence. Overall an entertaining twist on the myth.
Atwood's gift for looking at the world "slant" has frequently taken the form of dystopias, beginning with "The Handmaid's Tale". Yet, in her very early novels "The Edible Woman" and "Lady Oracle" she also revealed a mordant sense of humor. That wit is again central to her story-telling in "The Penelopiad." Her skill at refocussing on familiar events from a feminist viewpoint, as in "Life Before Man" and "The Robber Bride," continues to characterize her writing in this novel. Readers familiar with her work will enjoy this fresh take on an old legend. Those just getting acquainted with her writing will be moved to seek out more of her biting wit. Recommended.
This novel by Atwood is the story of The Odyssey told from Penelope's (Odysseus's wife) point of view. Atwood also gives voices to Penelope's 12 maids who are killed seemingly without reason by Odysseus and Telemachus in Book 22 of the original story. Penelope doesn't get much face time in the original Odyssey, so it's very enriching to read about her life and experiences. Being an Atwood book, I expected this to be a feminist take on a well-known masculine myth, but Penelope wasn't as strong a character as I expected (or hoped.) The chapters featuring the maids (as the chorus) however, were every bit as thought-provoking and disturbing as I've come to expect and love from Atwood.
This is apparently part of a larger "Modern Myths" series by Canongate featuring other authors retelling well-known myths from unexpected points of view. I look forward to reading more in this series.