The Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood)

I seem to be on a bit of a Greek mythology binge. After reading The Song Of Achilles I bought the Illiad, bought a book that I saw on Tumblr about two of the female Trojans in SoA and finally picked up the Margaret Atwood’s take on Penelope, wife of Odysseus and the apparently quintessential faithful wife for all Greeks to aspire too.

 Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and—curiously—twelve of her maids.Excerpt from the blurb of the Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

I have come to the conclusion that Margaret Atwood can be rather hit or miss. I had very high hopes when I heard of The Penelopiad: I love mythology, and I know Atwood is a very female centred writer so I was expecting great things. But… I felt as if The Penelopiad was just an exercise is laying out rumours surrounding Penelope’s twenty year wait for Odysseus to return. The premise is that Penelope is laying out her story, long after her death, to set the record straight. I’ll be perfectly frank it sounded a little like she was whining for half the novel.

What I did like is that Penelope feels some sort of guilt for what happened to the twelve maids. I liked that it was an attempt at an exploration of what Penelope must have had to go through with all the suitors attempting to destroy her country in her husbands absence. It was a good idea…but I felt it didn’t really have a proper story to it. It was just someone standing there saying plaintively, but no, that’s not what happened and …I don’t know, I think I was expecting something more than that.

The Penelopiad was a bit of a disappointment, but at only 119 pages, at least it was a short disappointment. I have determined that Margaret Atwood as a writer is really quite hit or miss for me. This makes me feel reluctant to attempt some of the huge novels, though I have three of them on my TBR list.

Have you read it? Did the Penelopiad leave you feeling disappointed or did you enjoy it? Maybe I just feel let down by my ideal of Atwood… who knows.


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