Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

"Now that I'm dead I know everything," is Penelope's first line in Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, a retelling of the tales of Homer from the viewpoint of Odysseus' wife. Not only does Penelope know everything, she is telling. She dishes out dirt on the Greek gods, the heroes who fought at Troy, and Helen, her cousin. She really dislikes Helen, who continues to be a royal pain in the afterlife. She still has high regard for Odysseus, but she lists his faults and misdeeds. He left her in a bind for twenty years, and she is not forgiving and forgetting.

Penelope's purpose in The Penelopiad is to counter the Homeric tradition that portrays her as innocent, obedient, and dutiful. She would like everyone to know that she recognized her husband right away when he returned; his legs were a dead give away. She had to be smart and resourceful to keep the suitors at bay so long and protect her son.

Penelope also wants the world to know how shabbily the twelve maids were treated. In a modern court of law, they would be found innocent of crimes against Oydsseus, who with his son Telemachus hung them after forcing them to clean the blood of the suitors from the palace. Penelope tells their story and includes them as the Chorus in this book.

Many readers will enjoy this alternate account of the Greek myths.

Atwood, Margaret. The Penelopiad. New York: Canongate, 2005. ISBN 1841957178


Anonymous said...

Nice review! I just read 'The Penelopiad' myself and enjoyed it immensely!

Anonymous said...

Nice review! I read "The Penelopiad" this morning and enjoyed it immensely!