Customer Review

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very important work- familiar, mystical but quite slow, 19 Nov 2002
This review is from: The Odyssey (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
I started reading this book already knowing the outline of Odessus's voyge back home after the battle of Troy through film, articles and reading a condensed version of the tale. I'm very glad I do have some fore-knowledge of the story as some parts of the book are quite ambiguous and confusing. The rich narrative of the text sometimes bogs the action down and it is quite easy to forget what exactly is happening.
The action though, when it comes, is exciting and often quite blood thirsty. The plot devices are also ingenious and completly ruthless in some cases- Odyssus is the only one of his party to arrive home after all his soldiers meet grusome deaths at the hands of his mortal enemies.
Possibly one of the most interesting things about the story is the way modern litrature and culture have frequently mirrored or refered to Homer's plot ideas (if you can say there's a plot, The Odyssey is written as a true story). The classic story of someone trying to return home against enormous odds has been used over and over often with subtle or not so subtle usage of Homer's myth. The images within the book of the sirens and the cyclopes are famous in their own right and it's amusing to see how they all fit into place in the larger scheme.
The split narrative of the story is very interesting as the tale of the journey home is sometimes told in hindsight or fore warning making the structure of the story jump. This seems very unusual in a book pre-twentieth century let alone cica 700BC!
Some parts of the book are repetative, steeped in unecessary narrative and are confusing. The regular descriptions of food and sacrifices to the gods can become dull and will not appeal to those who read for leisure, however, the antiquity of the writing means that The Odyssey is not only a story but also a piece of historic evidence showing how the ancient Greeks lived and what they believed.
As one of the earliest tales written it deserves a high place in anybody's to-read list. In a top 100 of the most important books ever written it would score very highly (top ten) and this is due to the historical rarity of writings of the time and also because it is an interesting, and in many places, exciting story. It is just a pity that the pace of the narrative often plods slowly along and is therefore quite difficult to get through at times.
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