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Penelope Speaks Out
on 28 December 2017
Part of the Canongate Myths series, where myths are retold, so we have Margaret Atwood’s contribution, one based on Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. Based around the Odyssey, so Penelope awaits the return of her husband, and in the original version has come to be known as the perfect doting wife. But now, with this novella we see Penelope speak out from the other side of the Styx.
Presented as a normal prose tale as such, there are intervals where we hear the chorus, mirroring in many ways traditional Classical Greek drama. Taking in many themes and ideas, as well as genres, so the story that we are told here, by a woman who has been dead for many centuries, does show a certain amount of wry humour, as the story is retold for us.
Did Odysseus really do all the things that is claimed in the Odyssey – or have they been rather blown out of proportion? Was the killing of for instance Cyclops more of a tavern brawl over payment?
Presented as it is here with a normal narrative, but with added scenes from the chorus, this does make for an interesting and relatively quick read, that is quite enjoyable. I would personally think that you do not have to be fully knowledgeable on the Odyssey, or the way that ideas have changed over the centuries with regards to Helen and the whole Troy battles, but it does help if you at least understand a bit about what the original text is, and have a vague idea of current thoughts on someone like Helen of Troy.