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The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (15 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676974252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676974256
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 12.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,623,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.

In addition to the classic The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo credit: George Whitside)

Product Description

The Penelopiad For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours. Full description

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Homer never told you 27 May 2006
By cambert
Atwood is a shrewd and witty writer and this book shows her at the top of her form. She transmutes her unwieldy source material - Homer's Odyssey - into a playful, honestly felt exploration of the foundations of love and family. Here the heroic becomes human and the humdrum underpinnings of legend are exposed.

Penelope chafes against posterity and how it exemplifies her as the faithful, stay-at-home wife. She's not interested in being an archetype; she's remembering the awkward in-laws, her uncouth teenage son, Odysseus' stubby legs. Homer sings hymns to Odysseus and his wily ways; Atwood shows us what it's like to be married to a dishonest man. Helen of Troy is here too (she's Penelope's cousin) and she's just like you knew she really would be - vapid, catty, only real when reflected in a man's eyes.

Running beneath the humour is the story of everything that Penelope has lost: her home, her husband, her youth, her friends, her life, her truth. Our narrator is a weary shade, viewing the world from the dim, grey realm of Hades. But having left behind life, she's also left behind the illusions that go with it. Dead she might be but her vision is clear, her humour is bone-dry, and her story is full-blooded.

If you've read the Odyssey, this novel will mean all the more to you. If you haven't, it will inspire you to search out 3,000 year-old Greek epic poetry. Either way, treasure this book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Playful and fun story telling 14 July 2007
A new twist to the tale of Odysseus for me, in the point of view of his clever and sly wife. About what she got up to whilst he was away and how she ran the kingdom and brought up their son. A light easy read, great for a holiday on the beach. The book is written in a subtle gossipy style and as long as you don't expect to be drawn into Odysseus epic journey you should enjoy this bok.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expensive Greek mythology fanfic 14 Jun 2007
By I Read, Therefore I Blog VINE VOICE
The jacket blurb for this book is somewhat misleading. Whilst Penelope's intention is to set the record straight as to what really went on with the suitors whilst Odysseus is away, in fact Atwood cannot resist throwing some doubt in at the end as to whether Penelope is really telling the whole story or just trying to spin it. The notion of Penelope being as adapt a liar as Odysseus is fascinating, but is never explored in depth and in truth, whilst Atwood gives Penelope wit and intelligence, there is something about the way she speaks that is curiously anachronistic. Whilst you can explain some of this from the set up (she is in the Underworld, monitoring the world as time goes by), the fact that she is so familiar with using modern phraseology and slang does grate. I also found Penelope to be a strangely passive character and ironically, nowhere near as strong as I always saw her in The Odyssey because Atwood is careful to describe her isolation and lack of allies (apart from the twelve maids who we never really see her interact with). I found this to be frustrating because far from being someone who helps to shape her destiny (particularly by unpicking the shroud at night), she comes across as someone who's really just waiting to be rescued.

Atwood uses the maids as a chorus in the book to give their side of the story and also cast doubt on what Penelope is saying. She does this by writing in verse and whilst it's well written and amusing, it doesn't give them such a dramatic voice and whereas the effect should be to make you emphasise with their fate, I found it too superficial to do so.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Myth carries on... 11 Jun 2010
The Penelopiad is a novella by Margaret Atwood as part of the MYTHS collection, which involes the rather interesting process of famous authors tweaking and re-writing a chosen Greek myth. Being somewhat curious about Canongate (the company resposible for this), this was the first of the Canongate books that I read.

The story begins at the end, with a dearly departed Penelope spending all eternity in Hades. Here, she tells the reader the story of her life

Structured similarly to a classical Greek drama, the storytelling alternates between Penelope's narrative and the choral commentary of the twelve maids--who are given no names, or barely one voice. The chilling image on the back of my book--sees the twelve maids hanging from the rafters--for in the end that is all they were. The story deviates from Penelope, who sees herself as a woman who was denied a voice--to the actual characters that were denied everything--the maids.

Penelope is deliberately naive, and Atwood's dry humour pours into every page. I have no doubts that this book is strongly feminist, despite Atwood stating otherwise. This is probably the books only downfall (and that is coming from a female reviewer!). However, the book should simply be taken for what it is, and asborbed for its disturbing logic and beauty.

Penelope is a metafictional narrator, because she describes herself and the story as a popular myth - while this is quite weird -it is very much welcome in a story in which the purpose is to twist and alter the myth (without making it beyond recogntion like THE HELMET OF HORROR does).

I recommend reading THE HISTORY OF MYTH by Karen Armstrong (also by Canongate) alongside this book, as they compliment each other nicely
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Familiar story, New spin. Or, rather, several new spins. Whose story is this? Who's narrating? Intriguing, funny, touching and thought provoking, this deserves its reputation.
Published 3 days ago by Kathy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 7 days ago by Suzanne
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another fabulous Atwood Novel to add to my collection
Having studied the Odyssey and recently reading the Iliad, reading Atwood's hilarious, witty and humanising take on the character of Penelope was a delight. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Laura
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not a fan of this style of writing.
Published 1 month ago by DennyB
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!
Loved the book and the cover art by Tamara de Lempicka! Really great read and the book was in great condition x
Published 2 months ago by Mollie Letheren
2.0 out of 5 stars The Penelopied
This book is not for me.It is too airy fairy and imaginative.Some people liked it and found it amusing in the W.E.A.class I attend.
Published 5 months ago by Christine Denovan
5.0 out of 5 stars So many hilarious moments.
A well-known story, but this casts Penelope in a whole new light. I've read all of the Mary Renault books, & more recently the Song of Achilles, as well as having to study the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by OhErm
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad yarn
I enjoyed it. Read it quickly. Funny in parts,but found the modern take on the Greek chorus a bit laboured.
Published 10 months ago by kathleen gibb
4.0 out of 5 stars Confessions of a Desperate Housewife from Ancient Greek times
Atwood's choice of material from "The Odyssey" does not come as a surprise, considering her penchant for drawing focus on the disenfranchised. Read more
Published 11 months ago by J. Ang
5.0 out of 5 stars Short sharp lead into myth , wets appetite for rest of series
I bought this on recommendation for pre-reading for an OU course and it was well worth the investment ,it only took three hours and opened gates to part of the myth repertoire I... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Kath England
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