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90 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Homer never told you
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...
Published on 27 May 2006 by cambert

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Playful and fun story telling
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...
Published on 14 July 2007 by Kittykat


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90 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Homer never told you, 27 May 2006
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Playful and fun story telling, 14 July 2007
By 
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Myth carries on..., 11 Jun 2010
By 
Amazon Customer (Waterlooville, Hants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea but a too short to fulfill its promise, 15 Mar 2007
By 
Helenbookworm (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I am a big fan of Margaret Atwood and am always pleased to have a new book of hers to read. I am also a fan of Homer though it always irked me that while Odysseus got to live enchanted on an island with a goddess for several years his poor wife had to beat of dozens of money grabbing suitors with nothing but her wits to help her. I thought the basic premise of this book was great but though the beginning was strong it was so short that I felt that the character of Penelope was not sufficiently developed. I am glad that it did show the poor maids, much maligned in the Odyssey, in a more favorable and balanced light. However it all felt a little two dimensional for my taste. I still have to give it 3 stars for being an original idea.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expensive Greek mythology fanfic, 14 Jun 2007
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. Similarly, neither Odysseus nor Telechemus rise above cariacture - Odysseus is the classic wandering husband (obviously) full of promises that he never keeps and which Penelope never confronts him on whilst Telechemus is nothing more than a sulky teenager who doesn't like his mum. Atwood points at there being an emotional distance between mother and son without ever explaining it from the Penelope's perspective and this again goes to her passivity - she allows others to spoil him without ever really doing anything to rectify it.

There is no disagreeing with the fact that Atwood writes this with wit. There are a couple of chuckle-out-loud moments in the story but ultimately the froth that you find here is insubstantial and it's certainly not enough to make me want to re-read this. This is part of Canongate's series re-examining mythology and whilst they've got some heavy weight hitters, if they're all as insubstantial as this volume (which frankly, is something that Atwood could bat out in her sleep) then I can't see it as being particularly successful. In particular, I find it very difficult to see how they can justify the cover price of 7.99 when there's fewer than 200 pages here (and at least 20 of those are verse).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling retelling of a familar tale, 4 Feb 2011
By 
The Penelopiad sees Margaret Atwood retelling parts of The Iliad and The Odyssey from the point of view of Odysseus' wife Penelope and the twelve maids that he slaughtered. Judging from the blurb, Atwood is proud of giving Penelope a voice for the first time, and she has succeeded in creating a exceptionally well-rounded character. Feeling her story is somewhat overlooked by that of her more beautiful sister, we find Penelope recounting her side of the story as she wanders round Hell. Intensely driven by jealousy of her famous sister, she is a loyal wife, and it is enjoyable to see her defend her treatment of the Suitors who plague her marital home in an attempt to claim her hand in Odyssey's absence. Her justifications and musings coalesce around a most enjoyable character.

Her decision to include the maids as a chorus line throughout the book could have been gimmicky, but she pushes them through a variety of dramatic techniques - for example a court reconstruction and a play, but provides a real backbone to the book, deftly done that attempts to explain their seemingly indiscriminate slaughter in The Odyssey.

Overall, this is a book that is clever and funny, in which the entertaining character of Penelope is finally allowed to come to the fore. Atwood's language is frequently modern, and the lives of her characters are frequently set to contemporary rhythms, but this only serves to underscore the timelessness of the myth that she is retelling.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly Funny, 4 May 2007
A knowledge of the classics is not essential for understanding or enjoying Atwood's adaptation of the Penelope myth. It's clear that the author thoroughly enjoyed herself, and Penelope radiates a humanity that is often missing from some of Atwood's earlier creations. This book is full of wit and humour as well as poetry. Some of the images will stay with you long after you've finished the book.

Try this for a thoughtful but entertaining read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like Marmite, you will either love it or hate it!, 11 Oct 2006
By 
A strange little book. I did like it though the Chorus, well it did annoy slightly. This was a gift to me from a friend, not my choice and I was between books at the time. I did, however read it in a day as I couldn't put it down and was both sickened and enthralled by the story, which is written from the perspective of Penelope during the voyage of her husband Odysseus.

Read how men will hear and see what they want to and how the wiles of a woman can only get her so far.

A classical tale with a contemporary twist but don't expect to be too drawn into an epic tale, this is just a snippet.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing take on an ancient myth, 25 Nov 2005
By A Customer
In the Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood retells the familiar story of the Odyssey through the eyes of his long suffering wife Penelope.
Penelope is a strong voice throughout the narrative and is believable as the classical character. There is a pleasing cynicism about her attitude that is thoroughly modern but gives a timeless feel to this re-written myth.
Atwood uses poetry and song in interludes to add extra layers to the story in the form of a chorus of Penelope's slave girls - copying the style found in Greek tragedy. This works effectively for the majority of the book and is a clever take on an ancient form. I would have preferred her to stick to poems and songs rather than also adding a modern day court scene near the end and an anthropology lecture which I felt jarred with the rest of the book.
It seems that Atwood was keen to make the story 'relevant' to our times and she resorted to cliched means to do this at the end. This was a shame as the first 2/3 of the book is excellent and was already making me see resonances with the modern world.
I think it would have been a better read had she allowed it to be more subtle in its 'message' rather than spelling things out at the end as if the reader hadn't already thought 'there are lots of Odysseuses and Penelopes in our world today'.
A bit of a disappointment from one of the world's greatest writers.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More more!, 23 Jun 2006
By 
C. Oflaherty "llywco" (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I find with Margaret Atwood books that I either love them or hate them. Love: Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake. Couldn't get past first couple of chapters of Blind Assassin. This is one I loved, I just wished it was longer.

It seems like a snack of a book with only a few short chapters. It is funny, thoughtful and intriguing enought to make me dive into the Iliad.

I love the idea of taking a myth in hand and rewriting it from the ignored woman's perspective. I always enjoyed the fairy tales that switched to the wolf's perspective as well though.

I liked the take on the afterlife and yes I also enjoyed Helen being a bimbo. It really makes you wonder, why did he kill the maids?
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