Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now

Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 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.
0Comment|100 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 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.
0Comment|17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 November 2007
I think some of the earlier reviews of this novel fundamentally misunderstand its premise. Atwood's `The Penelopiad' was part of a series of books that endeavoured to revision classic myths from a new perspective. In this case Atwood took back the story of the `Odyssey' from Homer and Odysseus and positioned it firmly from the perspective of the abandoned Penelope and her slaughtered maids. Odysseus in various versions of the ancient Greek myth is painted as an alpha male hero, surviving the war at Troy and endeavouring to return to his beloved wife Penelope, hence Homer's `Odyssey'. Penelope was predominately characterised as the ever faithful wifey awaiting the return of her husband. What Atwood does is neither radical, nor particularly new many post-modern writers have reinterpreted male myths, often from a feminist or a particular nationalist perspective. Often reinterpretation is a cathartic means of taking back the history of oppression, silencing and colonisation, and certainly many women feel that they have largely been ignored by the history books. So what Atwood simply does is tell the story from the perspective of Penelope, a character essentially idealised in the ancient myth as the dutiful wife evading the advances of her many suitors by continuously weaving and unpicking a garment. Rather than chaining Penelope to the spinning wheel, Atwood invigorates her character with sexuality, humour, emotion and as a woman highly sceptical of her husband's pursuits and attitude towards women. For those who have read Homer's `Odyssey' one must not forget that it took Odysseus many years to return home to his wife, and in that time he engaged in a year long affair with the nymph Circe. Not until `The Penelopiad' do we get open criticism of Odysseus' behaviour and his senseless slaughter of Penelope's handmaids and most importantly this criticism comes directly from Penny herself. I think Atwood's novel is a fabulous fusion of re-written history from a sexy and witty perspective that incorporates nods towards popular culture such as `Desperate Housewives' and chick lit. Okay so it probably isn't Atwood's best written work but there are definite echoes of her earliest work `The Edible Woman' and the poetic prose of the chorus made up the twelve maids reminds one that Atwood is an extremely accomplished poet (see `Eating Fire'). I find it difficult to accept that this novel has been so readily written off, while many people will quite happily part with their money to see thoughtless and turgid Hollywood interpretations of the ancient world (`Troy', `Alexander', `300') that lack wit and sophistication. However I will concede that `The Penelopiad' is feminism lite, and if one wishes to introduce themselves to ancient proto-feminism I would suggest Euripides' `Medea'.
11 comment|3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 October 2006
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.
0Comment|10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 25 November 2005
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.
0Comment|16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 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.
0Comment|17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 29 April 2015
A woman's look at The Odyssey.

I've read the Iliad and Odyssey, but a while ago. The details of Odysseus's wife and her life aren't too clear, though I remember the main story - left for 20 years by her husband off to the Trojan wars, Penelope must use her wiles to dissuade her many suitors from forcing her hand and making her remarry.

Here she tells her story, from a childhood in luxury (though a parental attempted murder mars things somewhat) to her early marriage and short blissful honeymoon period to her many, many years alone with her maids and small son, through to the clamouring and greedy suitors desperate to marry into her money. And her husband's ill-fated return.

Penelope is a convincing queen, naive at the start, growing in confidence and intelligence as her situation forces her to take control. Her story is interspersed with her Chorus of 12 Maids telling their story (of how Odysseus had them killed on his return). The reason for this is explained away her as their innocence is argued by the author. How she does this is brilliant - their short interludes contain not only a typical lament and idyll, but also take the form of a rope-jumping rhyme, a popular tune, sea shanty, ballad, drama, anthropology lecture, trial transcript

For of course, Penelope is talking to us from beyond the grave, she and her maids are long dead and their omniscient narration works well.

One of my favourite lines is self-referential, as the maids curse Odysseus in every way they can, in every form, inducing us also to:

“Dog his footsteps, on Earth or in Hades… in songs and in plays… in marginal notes and in appendices!”

This is a short work (less than 150 pages), but a lovely companion piece to the much more weighty Odyssey, and does give pause for thought about the treatment of women in Greek myth, and how fair it may or may not be.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 29 April 2015
A woman's look at The Odyssey.

I've read the Iliad and Odyssey, but a while ago. The details of Odysseus's wife and her life aren't too clear, though I remember the main story - left for 20 years by her husband off to the Trojan wars, Penelope must use her wiles to dissuade her many suitors from forcing her hand and making her remarry.

Here she tells her story, from a childhood in luxury (though a parental attempted murder mars things somewhat) to her early marriage and short blissful honeymoon period to her many, many years alone with her maids and small son, through to the clamouring and greedy suitors desperate to marry into her money. And her husband's ill-fated return.

Penelope is a convincing queen, naive at the start, growing in confidence and intelligence as her situation forces her to take control. Her story is interspersed with her Chorus of 12 Maids telling their story (of how Odysseus had them killed on his return). The reason for this is explained away her as their innocence is argued by the author. How she does this is brilliant - their short interludes contain not only a typical lament and idyll, but also take the form of a rope-jumping rhyme, a popular tune, sea shanty, ballad, drama, anthropology lecture, trial transcript

For of course, Penelope is talking to us from beyond the grave, she and her maids are long dead and their omniscient narration works well.

One of my favourite lines is self-referential, as the maids curse Odysseus in every way they can, in every form, inducing us also to:

“Dog his footsteps, on Earth or in Hades… in songs and in plays… in marginal notes and in appendices!”

This is a short work (less than 150 pages), but a lovely companion piece to the much more weighty Odyssey, and does give pause for thought about the treatment of women in Greek myth, and how fair it may or may not be.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 February 2009
This is a sharp and acerbic story, examining what it might be like to be the 'patient woman who weaves and waits for her husband to return from derring do and being heroic'

Atwood wears her learning and her feminism lightly, but the sharp examination of what it might have been like to have been female in Ancient Greece, just prior to the Trojan wars, is nevertheless pointed and stark.

Penelope, Odysseus' 'patient wife' is stuck in Ithaca whilst he roisters about for years, being a hero. Atwood cuts the myths about the Sirens and Circe down to human size, slyly suggesting Odysseus and his men have just bigged up some prolonged stays in brothels.

Penelope tells her story from the Underworld, occasionally casting a jaundiced eye on the 21st century. She looks back at her girlhood and marriage to Odysseus, what it was like to be a minor princess and political pawn. There's a fairly large cast of Classical gods and heroes, all given the Atwood treatment - for example, Penelope's mother, a Naiad, is predictably a little short on maternal feelings 'she preferred swimming about to the care of small children.....there she sat on her throne....a small puddle gathering at her feet' Helen of ship launching fame (Penelope's cousin) is vapid and self obsessed.

The story is told with dry wit by Penelope herself, and also is commented on and burlesqued by her 12 maids (who were all savagely hung by Odysseus' son Telemachus) - this is no spoiler, its all in the Odyssey, and anyway Penelope alludes to the end of the story at the start.

This isn't an Atwood with the weight of The Blind Assassin, or Alias Grace, but very present underneath the light touch humour and playful illusion, the laying bare of the results of patriarchy are as uncompromising as ever
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I am not normally a fan of Margaret Atwood's writings. I often find that she is too dark or has too much edge. Not that it is not good writing, and she is probably currently the most famous of the living Canadian authors, she just isn't usually my thing. I cannot say that for this book.

The Penelopiad is a hilarious romp through a story that most of us know, but told outside of time. There is an old saying that "dead men don't tell tales" and that may be true, but in this inventive retelling, a dead woman and her chorus of dead girls do just that.

Atwood has turned this myth on its head and told it from the female perspective. Unfortunately, our heroine is dead and in Hades, retelling her story from across the river Styx. She is telling her whole story but especially the events around Odysseus' long absence during the war against Troy and that unfortunate event with her cousin Helen.

The story is written in the format of a Greek Tragedy but with the humor and temperament of a comedy. Our chorus is the twelve dead maids, hung strung together on a ship's rope by Odysseus. They appear from time to time, in song, dance, or mock plays and trials to re-enact events from their lives to punctuate Penelope's story.

The twists and turns in this story will make you laugh out loud. A friend of mine who read it stated, `It begs to be read aloud.' And I could not agree more. Pick up the book, get some friends together and read it aloud, over an evening or two together. Much fun will be had with the ghosts of our 13 dead ladies.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.