Thursday, August 13, 2009


Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 199
Series : Canongate Myth Series
Format : Mythology Fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, because I love the Canongate myth series and Margaret Atwood

Penelope is left behind when Odysseus goes off to fight the war in Troy. When the war is finally over he disappears for years and finally makes it back alone of his crew to find a bunch of suitors trying to wed his wife. He kills them with the help of his son and then hangs Penelope's 12 maids. We learn Odysseus' story in The Odyssey and The Iliad, but before this no one has tole Penelope's story.

We begin with her childhood and how she came to marry Odysseus. Penelope has a warm voice, but it is filled with loss, bitterness and irony at the same time for what she lost and felt she never had. Odysseus tricks his way into their marriage bed and sets the tone for the rest of his part in the story. We also learn more about how Penelope puts off her suitors and the character of her son Telemecus.

Part of Penelope's trouble is Odysseus and his trickster nature. She feels comforted by him, one of the few people who comapres her favourably to her beautiful cousin Helen. However, how can she believe anything he says as she knows the lies that trip off his tongue like honey. Her other nemesis is Helen of Troy. She talks down to plain Penelope who always falls short when comparing herself to Helen.

One of the best things about it is every now and then we get a chorus from the maids summing up the story so far. These take on different forms from a play to poetry to songsetc. It was a really good and novel way to break up the main prose tale.

This was such a great edition to the series. The quote on the cover says "Half-Dorothy Parker, half-Desperate Housewives" which is a really good way to sum it up. It like a spot on black comedy. It doesn't affect the story knowing the outcome form the start, it makes it more haunting.

5 comments:

Sheryl said...

This sounds remarkably intriguing! I am making this my next book to read.

Darla D said...

I have always loved Penelope. I've added this one to the list. I really enjoyed the one Canongate myths book I've read so far!

Nymeth said...

I love Margaret Atwood's dark sense of humour, and this is definitely full of it.

Alice Teh said...

I haven't read anything by Atwood but have THE HANDMAID'S TALE in my TBR. This one sounds good! :D

Kim L said...

I really enjoyed this one. It seemed like it covered so much ground for being such a short novel, and I love Atwood's writing, of course.