Book Review: The Penelopiad

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood is a retelling of the classic Odyssey from a new perspective.

Penelope is currently wandering the Underworld in her afterlife. She retells Odyssey from her own point of view.

Over two-thousand years ago, she was the wife of Odysseus, married at the age of fifteen. During his journey of unbelievable escapades, Penelope waited for him for twenty years until he finally returned. In the meantime, many suitors schemed in attempt to take his place.

In this novel, Penelope’s character remains fairly true to her original image. She is humble, patient, and very clever. But she is given much more of a voice than she ever had in The Odyssey. Alongside, the twelve murdered maids are also given a voice, in demanding justice for their cruel fate.

What’s also clearly presented is the tension between Penelope and her cousin, Helen of Troy. Penelope feels threatened of Helen and is very jealous of her, while Helen is condescending and dismissive of Penelope. Seeing this dynamic is fascinating.

This book was a fairly short read and I enjoyed it. I really liked the concept of Penelope speaking to us in present day, not only recounting her version of The Odyssey, but also commenting on her experience in the afterlife. There’s a lot of dark humor — along with an overall, general darkness.

My only criticism is that at some parts the story fall flat and lacks conflict, instead dwelling on the sorrow and misery of waiting around for a return that may never happen. On the other hand, the author certainly captures that feeling of floating between nothingness, having absolutely no control of your fate, and battling against the worst nightmares of your mind.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 — 4/5 stars

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