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The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths) Paperback – 7 Feb 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main - New cover edition edition (7 Feb. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841957046
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841957043
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,252 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

Review

a feminist viewpoint of which Homer could nary have dreamt -- Observer

From the Publisher

3 Hours Unabridged --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 98 people found the following review helpful By cambert on 27 May 2006
Format: Paperback
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 By Kittykat on 14 July 2007
Format: Paperback
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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By I Read, Therefore I Blog VINE VOICE on 14 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
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 By Amazon Customer on 11 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
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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