I decided to feature The Penelopiad on the student services blog this month mostly because I love talking up the Myths series. In pulling together that post, however, I was disheartened to find that the library only has a few of the Myths series books in its collection. The Penelopiad, A Short History of Myth, and Weight and were the only ones I could find in the catalog.
Anyway, here's a quick little write-up.
If you want more of me on the Myths series, check out today's book of the month post and this October 2006 post.
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood
In The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood retells the story of Penelope--daughter of Icarius of Sparta, cousin of Helen of Troy, wife of Odysseus--using both the classic narrative of Homer's Odyssey and less well-known versions of the tale. In Atwood's tale, Odysseus is very much a secondary character, with pride of place given first to Penelope and second to the twelve slaughtered maids. This perspective forces readers to consider the other stories contained within a tale we know so well.
In all honesty, I didn't have strong feelings about The Penelopiad. I like Atwood (I can't say "love" here as while I love some of her books, I'm not crazy about others), I appreciate The Odyssey, and I love the Myths series, but this title didn't do all that much for me. I thought certain parts were very strong (particularly the portrayal of Penelope and Helen and the way that all the characters interact with each other in the afterlife), while others were somewhat weak or nonsensical (mostly the sidebars like the courtroom drama).