Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Penelopiad by M. Atwood, A Review

What would you do if your husband took a wrong turn on his way home, lost his ship, got tripped up by goddesses, and along the way fought a few battles. . .?



The Penelopiad Cover, by Margaret Atwood 



The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus * is well-known, but how did the lady feel about it? Waiting all that time. . .was she true, or did she have lovers? Rumors were rampant. And those twelve maids, were they helping their mistress, or undermining her authority? It's a matter of viewpoint.


In The Penelopiad. . .we hear the other side

As the years stretched out and Odysseus didn't return, Penelope tired of keeping the suitors fed, entertained and out of trouble. Caught in her falsehood about the shawl that she weaves and pulls apart, she must set a date and a requirement for the husband to replace Odysseus. (see * below)

If you remember the mythology or epic poetry from some time in your past, you may remember how Penelope resolved the matter. In Atwood's version, we are treated to Penelope's skewed reasoning and patient acceptance of the crosses she must bear (Odysseus' roaming adventures and her cousin, Helen of Troy). 

Ideas and themes discussed include the double standard between the sexes and classes, the fairness of justice, and competitively antagonistic female relationships. Using the viewpoint of Penelope, this story takes on a different angle, less ominous. One that rings truer to life. The truth of any subject is determined by your perspective.

The Penelopiad has been translated into 28 languages around the globe. Some critics think the writing of this book typical of Atwood, while others found some aspects disagreeable, e.g., the chorus of maids near the end of the book. I tend to agree with those in the second group. I recommend it, if you like mythology.

***

* The Odyssey, one of two ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer, centers on the Greek hero, Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten year Trojan War. It is assumed he has died, and therefore his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with an unruly group of suitors who compete for Penelope's hand in marriage.

***

Have you read this book or any book by Margaret Atwood? Do you like books that spoof fairy tales and myth?

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here, and I'll respond. Thanks for dropping by!

****
References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Penelopiad - Wiki on The Penelopiad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey Homer's Odyssey

***

14 comments:

  1. I've never read anything by her, no, but this sounds interesting. I never really thought about the wives left at home when the men were off on adventures, either in mythological or factual tales.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The woman left behind. . . isn't that a popular theme for songs, too? And I could easily see that a Helen of Troy could be annoying if you're related to her. . .

      Delete
  2. The Blind Assassin is one of my all time favorite books. I also liked Alias Grace and plan to read many more of her books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read that one, Inger. I avoided her books for a long time but decided to give Oryx and Crake a try and liked it, but it seems YA to me. This one I found at the library.

      Delete
  3. P. S. How pretty your template is. I love the colors and how you have divided it up. Really great looking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Inger, I appreciate the kind words.
      I just selected a template and went into advanced Design where you can select fonts, colors, and backgrounds. I wanted a background that was easy on the eyes.

      Delete
  4. Hmm. I'd not heard of this book. I'm not big into mythology, but the premise of this book is certainly interesting! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A spoof can be more interesting than the original, as modern ideas overlay a real or imagined time in our ancient past.

      Delete
  5. I do believe I have read books by this talented writer. Going on Google will give me some answers. A book about the abandoned Penelope would be fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a fun read, and Penelope had spunk, but in the end was pragmatic. . .

      Delete
  6. That was really a good idea for a book. I haven't read Penelopiad, but it's certainly one I'd like to check out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like mythology, and sometimes a spoof is well done. It keeps the older myth alive, too.

      Delete
  7. Like Sherry said: this is a great idea for a book. I loved seeing your mother's photos in the sidebar!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mothers rule, at least this weekend!!

      I think both of the mothers seem to epitomize the decade in which the photo was taken.

      Delete

Comments will be reviewed before they show on the blog.