Odysseus is coming home,
This review is from: The Odyssey (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
This is the sequel to The Iliad written by Homer (Historians are not sure exactly on the author) in around 800bc; originally of course an ancient Greek poem - this is a modern prose version. Having recently read the Iliad and found it quite amazing I was looking forward to this book. Though one seems to learn some of the stories of Odysseus (Ulysses) by osmosis I can't in all honest say I knew much of the full story or the background; so I was reading it in some ways without prejudice of its history and so will review it as such.
The basics are that Odysseus is returning from the Trojan wars to his family: son Telemachus, wife Penelope, father Laertes and loyal staff. He needs to get back because his home is full of dishonourable suitors trying to marry his wife, eat his food and take his wealth. The gods get involved particularly Athene assisting him - while Zeus and others mix it up. There are those famous incidents including the Sirens luring him with song, Circe turning his mates into pigs, the escape from the Cyclops, visiting Hades (underworld), held captive(?) by the nymph Calypso for years, the drug like lotus-eaters. The trojan horse and the demise of Menelaus, which are missing from the Iliad are included in the Odyssey.
I really enjoyed the translation but unlike the Iliad's basic premise of war, I did find Odysseus's attitude to his companions on the trip home (they all die), his ex-loyal staff/maids (he hangs them all) and the suitors (he kills them all), the ease with which he is actually unfaithful to his wife, that much less `acceptable' - to me as a modern reader I really didn't like him very much. He was renowned as a wily hero yet also I didn't find him that clever. And though the gods disguise him etc the proportion of the story given over to him back on Ithaca without people recognising him (about half the book) did tend to reduce my enjoyment of the story. The story again mentions many present day Greek islands (several I've had a holiday on - so a nice connection there), the cultural insight of an ancient world is so up-front.
The background, maps and introduction included in this edition was very informative. Given the impact, history, cultural depth and being a world literature classic it would be churlish of me not to rate the book highly even though I did find it a bit dry towards the end, so 4 stars.