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on 16 January 2007
The first time, read it for the tale.

The tale of the wandering of Odysseus and the trials, tribulations and adventures that befall him as he attempts to return to his rocky Ithaca and Penelope of the shapely ankles. It's a rollicking read. You'll be reminded of snippets of Sindbad, Aladdin, Watership Down, Captain Corelli's bloody Mandolin and so many other later works that involve a "homecoming". But this was the first.

The first time these stories about men, gods and monsters were all pulled together into a pretty coherent narrative. Most of the sub-tales such as Odysseus' trip into Hell, his encounter with monsters such as Polyphemus the Cyclops and the Harpies; with Proteus, the Sirens and the witch Circe were all probably part of a repetoire of tales delivered by the local poet/entertainer long before someone called Homer grabbed the posthumous glory by having them ascribed to him.

Homecomings are still a pretty popular genre in film, television and print. There must be something in the plot device which touches an unconscious part of us. It's a bit feelgood; it's a bit dreadful. It engages us all. Is Odyseus going to get home? What will happen to his wife and son? What would I do?

So, read it first for the story. And surprise yourself at how well you recognise the motivations and actions of characters placed in these situations over 2700 years ago. We haven't changed much, have we?

Then read it again.

This time, read it for the world of Odysseus. For what it tells you about the way we lived in a pre-literate, feudal society where any kind of progress was hard-won and very easily lost. Read it for the similes and metaphors Homer uses to describe things and events to an audience to make them come alive and be real to them. What do they tell you about the world back then? What do they tell you about the experiences of the audience and how would they feel, contrasting their life with that of this epic tale?

Read it for the insight into man's relationship with the gods. How did the ancient audience perceive them? Were they beings to be feared and propitiated? Wasn't that what kings were, too? Was there something more in the relationship between Odysseus and Athene? Something a little more human? Hmmmm.

Every page has something new to tell us about this now lost world. Look carefully and you can see stuff about the role of women in Homeric society; there's stuff about the etiquette and meaning of gift-giving in there. There's even stuff about how economics worked all those years ago. In fact, if you look closely enough (and stare at a few vase paintings as well) you can make an entire academic career out of this book.

But that would be missing the point.

Read it (at least) twice. It's got to be the best fiver you'll ever spend.
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on 25 November 2008
I will avoid hubris by not attempting to rate "the Odyssey" per se! My five stars are for the translation by E.V. Rieu in the Penguin Classics edition, updated by his son and Peter Jones to make it even more readable for the current generation. The transparent, joyful prose makes this a superb experience for child or adult. It doesn't read like a translation. There is no tortured struggle with the Greek. There are no King James' bible archaisms. I can't see how it could be made more accessible or joyful for modern readers. If a teenager watches a film of this epic and asks for the "book version", give them this this! They will instantly get the message that the film version is never better than the original book.

One reviewer had trouble digesting some paragraphs. Were they reading a different translation? I had little trouble digesting this; the only (slight) difficulty was with the large cast of characters. Greek Gods are dropped in without much explanation, and as I'm not an expert on Ancient Greek Myth I needed some help with placing these endlessly interesting characters. Fortunately the editors provide a superb glossary! This gives you a short sentence about every place and person involved -- no more or less than you need to get on with the story.

Rieu's translation was the first of the Penguin Classics,the series which he and Sir Andrew Lane founded. His aim was to translate classics into good modern English. So I guess he thought he had to to a really good job on this first book. And he did! The vision of founding the Penguin Classics came to him while translating the Odyssey aloud to his wife and daughters while bombs dropped on London during the blitz. You might call him "the ace who launched a thousand books".
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on 20 July 2011
This book is a joy to encounter. It is an English translation of Homer's (c.750BCE) ancient Greek Classic, often referred to as the second book in Western literature - the first being Homer's Illiad. It is the story of Odysseus' 20 year return journey back to the Greek island of Ithaca, from the Trojan War - the Trojan War campaign being the subject of the Illiad. It is believed to have originally been a poem describing events dating to around 1,200BCE. Homer appears to have written this story of oral tradition onto paper for the first time. Although Homer lived in the 8th century (BCE), which was the Iron Age in Greece, the Odyssesy continuously refers to weapons and armour being made of bronze, which again suggest an earlier time. However, although the core of the story may well be hundreds of years older thanHomer's time, nevertheless, certain curious contemporary practices appear to be recorded. In around 1,200 BCE, the habit for dealing with the dead was burial, in Homer's time it was cremation. Homer cites in the Odyssesy that dead people were 'cremated'. This means that oral traditions are not static but continue to develop all the time, around a much older core story.

The paperback (1991) edition contains 394 numbered pages and contains the following sections:

1) Preface.
2) Introduction - Peter V Jones.
3) Brief Reading List - Peter V Jones.
4) The Odyssesy - Pages 1-394.

The original text of this translation was published in 1946, by EV Rieu, the co-founder of the Penguin Classics series (with Sir Allen Lane). The purpose of this series was to produce modern English version of literary classics that everyone could easily access. The Oydssey was the first published Penguin Classic, whilst the Illiad was the second. EV Rieu was an Oxford scholar. His son, DCH Rieu, also an Oxford scholar, has revised his father's text because he feels certain aspects could be improved. For instance, DCH Riev believes his father's rendition over elaborated in parts, added politenesses not present in the Greek original, and omitted the mention of the influence of Greek gods in the text - instead of 'a god put this idea in my mind,' EV Reiu says 'it occured to me'. DCH Rieu's revised text has a greater succintness, without losing the over-all appeal of his father's original. Following in his father's footsteps, DCH Rieu has assisted his father in the translation, although, of course, many decades later (the early 1990's).

Peter Jones, a Cambridge scholar, has produced what can only be described as the most 'blissful' of introductions! His understanding and knowledge of Homer's Odyssesy is a sheer joy to encounter. He expertly places Homer within a clear historical context, and then places his writing into a correct perspective. Jones interprets facts and offers guidance with a natural ease. He presents a very interesting over-view of the chronological order of events in the book, and explains key issues and makes very profound and insightful comments. It is one of those pieces of literature that the reader wishes would never end. This translation of a Greek Classic has the feel of a 'Classic' about it. A rendition that presents the beauty of Homer's Greek original, in contemporary English. A perfect book.
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on 29 January 2010
NB. This is a review of the WILDSIDE PRESS edition of Pope's Odyssey.

Physically, this is a well-produced paperback, but whoever was responsible for the actual text at Wildside Press should hang their head in shame! It appears to have been copied from a hopelessly inaccurate edition circulating on the Internet and to have received no proofreading whatsoever. Leaving aside the poor punctuation, let me give you just one example (taken from Book One) of how Pope's wonderful verse is regularly mangled in this dire edition.

At lines 245-8 (not that this unscholarly edition contains any line numbers) we read:

Who, press'd with heart-corroding grief and years,
To the gay court a rural shed pretors, ["pretors"?! - should read "prefers"]
Where, sole of all his train, a matron sage
Supports with homely fond his drooping age, ["fond"?! - should read "food"]

My advice (for what it's worth) would be to always check line 42 when inspecting an edition for the first time. If it reads "absolute degree" instead of "absolute decree", avoid!

Chartwell Books' 2009 edition of Pope's masterpiece, The Odyssey, with illustrations by John Flaxman, appears to be mercifully free of these appalling errors (judging from the Look Inside facility at
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I'll be honest, my first experience of the basic story or the odyssey was watching 'Homer's Odyyssey' on the simpsons! But having seen a glimpse of the idea of the story when I was younger I vowed to one day read the real version. I'm glad I did and this penguin version in my opinion is the best way to get to understand the story whether you are into literature or not.

The odyssey is a poem and many translators have done excellent jobs of translating the text into English while keeping it a poem. However translating into a poem can not only sometimes lose some of the real story but can also alienate those who would like to know the story but can't deal with an epic poem. This is why this book is so great! The penguin version has been translated into a story, like reading a novel. This makes it incredibly easy to understand the plot and draws you so much more into the story.

The language used is also very easy to read and understand. Being a penguin book just like with wordsworth classics these books have little notes, whenever there's something that might not be understood by someone reading it they have added a helpful note, this makes reading it even easier. And when you are done with the story itself there is even to read at, where experts have added information (like the stuff you'd read if you were studying at school).

The story itself is very interesting, I won't give anything away and other reviewers have certainly added a lot about this but I will say that if you want to find out about this classic but aren't into the poetry aspect then this penguin version is definitely for you. I'd also recommend the illiad, written in the same format but set earlier, that book is every bit as readable as this one. The only hiccup in the story of the odyssey for me was right at the end. The ending seemed a bit off (the notes explain why) but I did feel a little dissatisfied by the ending, but that's just my personal opinion and doesn't change how great this book is.
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on 1 April 2016

Yes, attractive cover but the page and binding quality cheap (glued-not sewn) and unattractive (thick paper) recommend EVERYMAN editions instead for a fine quality at similar or less cost.
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on 13 August 2007
The Odyssey covers the twenty years Odysseus is away from his family and friends in Ithica. The first ten years or so are spent in Troy where he fights on the side of the Greeks against the Trojans (see The Iliad) and concieves the idea of the famous "wooden horse". The remainder of his time away is spent on an ill-fated journey home where he looses all of his crew at various stages.

The main cause of delay is due to Poseidan the Earth-Shaker after he blinds his son, Cyclops Polyphemus. He is then detained by Circe (a demi-Goddess who is a witch). After an incident where she turns some of his crew into pigs, she sends him to the Underworld to speak to the seer Teiresias to learn how to return homw. After he leaves he faces the Sirens and the monsters Scylla and Charybdis who carry off some of his crew. The rest of his crew are killed after eating the Sun-Gods cattle on the island Thrinacia as punnishment. Odysseus is then detained 7 more years on the island of Ogygia where he washes up by Calypso. She is trying to get him to marry her and become immortal.

Eventally he gets back to his homeland with a little help from the Phaeacians and the Goddess Athena disguises him. While he has been away his wife has been beset by suitors who are trying to win her hand (assuming Odysseus is dead) in marriage and are treating his house and son Telemachus with disresect. Eventually father and son team up to kill all the suitors and all are finally reunited.

I really enjoyed this book, more so than The Iliad. I definately recommend reading The Iliad and then The Odyssey, not just because it makes sense chronologically but also because this is a more enjoyable story. The only problem I really had was that poor sensible Penelope is never consulted or trusted by her son or husband. Telemachus runs off and doesn't tell her and then Odysseus returns and tells his son and old nurse, but not his wife who has spent the last twenty years crying and mourning his loss. Pretty heartless really!
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on 6 September 2010
I first read The Odyssey about 60 years ago when a new translation by E. V. Rieu was much publicised and available from Penguin. As a teenager I enjoyed it very much as an adventure story, about which I had heard. I have quite a few books and was confident that my copy was 'somewhere' when I recommended the Odyssey to a readers group to which I belong; it was accepted and added to the list and came up this last month. I could not find my copy; the library could not obtain a 'Rieu' copy, in time, so I visited my friendly Amazon website. I found the Rieu was still available but, in addition to the original, a later version is available that has been slightly revised by the son of E.V.; I ordered and have read it again. Although I read with a lifetime of experience behind me I really enjoyed it once again. This time, however, I have both the introduction by E V from 1946 and a DCHR Preface of 2002, which begins with'My Father E. V. ...' in which the son, DCHR, later refers to his father as EVR. It is obvious that both Father and Son love and respect Homer.
Read the story and then the DCHR Preface followed by the PVJ Introduction with His analysis of the construction of the 'plot' and why it is arranged in the way that it is.
Finally, I learned that the EVR translation gave us the very first book in the Penguin Classics series. A Really Fine package; you will be glad to own and treasure it. Just do not mislay it, you never know ...!
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on 17 April 2012
This is a revised copy of an email which my husband sent to the supposed email address of Book Jungle (which bounced):

Subject: The Odyssey Of Homer (translated by Alexander Pope)
Date 16/04/2012

Recently I purchased this work in your edition from Amazon on-line. I am in the process of reading it.

I have been amazed, shocked and angered by your production. On every page there are multiple mistakes in punctuation (errors of omission or commission of periods, commas, colons, semi-colons); and in words ( erroneous omission or insertion of letters, or wrong words).

I cannot understand how you allowed this abominably produced book to be released. These errors begin in carelessness in type-setting/wordprocessing, and continue through proof-reading and editing.

Have you no sense of professionalism, pride in your work or sense of responsibility to customers?
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on 17 June 2014
I bought this E.V.Rieu translation back in 1959 as a Penguin Classic - it cost 3/6, the first paperback I ever bought! I thought it was about time I bought a replacement.

This is an account of one of the first great journeys of exploration in humanity's history, and it may even be true at its heart. It tells of the journey of Odysseus after the Trojan War, a story that is told in The Iliad. There have been films based on this story, but nothing can beat Rieu's complete translation.

This revised version is a slightly reworked translation by E.V. Rieu's son, D.C.H. Rieu. He has added a timeline to the adventure, a guide to the main characters, an index and a glossary so we can find our way around. This makes it much easier as a study piece.

Reads like a novel, rather than a history book. The English is beautifully written, the story is exciting, and this 3,000 year old adventure holds up well against anything Hollywood can throw at us. An older child who likes reading should be given this as a birthday or Christmas present.
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