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Now that all the others have run out of air it’s my turn to do a little story making In Homer’s account in The Odyssey Penelope wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy is portrayed as the uintessential faithful wife her story a salutary lesson through the ages 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 scandalou Often I amuse myself by trying to imagine the ideas conversations or circumstances that led to the writing of certain books For example I think Philippa Gregory wrote The Other Boleyn Girl because she wanted to write a smutty romance novel disguised as history Shakespeare probably wrote The Taming of the Shrew because someone bet him he couldn't write a play where domestic abuse is interpreted as matrimonial devotion and Bette Green wrote Summer of My German Soldier specifically to torture 10th grade Madeline In the case of The Penelopiad I like to think that the idea for its creation came about in the mind of Margaret Atwood right after she read The Odyssey for what was probably the 10th time Probably in the original Greek too Anyway I think something like this went on in Atwood's head just with a lot better vocabulary of courseGod I hate Odysseus Okay Homer you know what I'm gonna do? I'm going to take your story and write in from Penelope's perspective and instead of portraying Odysseus as a hero I'm going to turn him into the jerkiest jerk who ever jerked And there will be tap dancing maids HAAnd she did This book is the result and I can practically hear Atwood cackling madly at her computer as she types the story The Good Neighbour portrayed as the uintessential faithful wife her story a salutary lesson through the ages 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 scandalou Often I amuse myself by trying to imagine the ideas conversations or circumstances that led to the writing of certain books For example I think Philippa Gregory wrote The Other Boleyn Girl because she wanted to write a smutty romance novel disguised as history Shakespeare Catch Me Before I Fall probably wrote The Taming of the Shrew because someone bet him he couldn't write a Biggles Fails to Return play where domestic abuse is interpreted as matrimonial devotion and Bette Green wrote Summer of My German Soldier specifically to torture 10th grade Madeline In the case of The Penelopiad I like to think that the idea for its creation came about in the mind of Margaret Atwood right after she read The Odyssey for what was African Nights probably the 10th time Probably in the original Greek too Anyway I think something like this went on in Atwood's head just with a lot better vocabulary of courseGod I hate Odysseus Okay Homer you know what I'm gonna do? I'm going to take your story and write in from Penelope's Kings perspective and instead of Doctor Who portraying Odysseus as a hero I'm going to turn him into the jerkiest jerk who ever jerked And there will be tap dancing maids HAAnd she did This book is the result and I can An Affair with My Mother practically hear Atwood cackling madly at her computer as she types the story

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The Penelopiad

S 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 In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids Margaret Atwood gives us a reworked reinterpretation of Homer's The Odyssey that lends itself rather well to our present day in its contemporary echoes of our MeToo movement today We have the abandoned for 20 years but faithful Penelope learning to manage the court in the absence of her philandering husband Numerous suitors come to court Penelope commands the twelve maids slaves in reality to be used and abused to deal with them The inherently flawed Odysseus spent the first 10 years fighting the Trojan War and the following 10 years having adventures having a riotous time before finally returning to Ithaca He is painted as a over hyped testerone fuelled hypocrite barely deserving of the saintly Penelope Odysseus orders the twelve maids to be murdered feeling they have betrayed him and left a stain on his sense of honour However Penelope herself overwhelmed by guilt at this heinous act does not come out of this tale wellAtwood has each character give a defence of their behaviour from their own perspective spinning the most positive picture possible in their efforts to redeem themselves They have no wish to be held accountable or feel any sense of responsibility This feminist focus on the little known twelve maids from Homer skirts around the periphery of the idea that these powerless women were asking for what they got and deserving of their harrowing fate Atwood gives them a voice in which they bitterly lay out their side of the story When we see much of what happens to women and the treatment of them in society and social media it begs the uestion whether much has changed from the ancient times retold by Atwood This is a short but darkly humorous witty poetic read that is thought provoking and entertaining Many thanks to Canongate for an ARC

Read The Penelopiad

Asking “What led to the hanging of the maids and what was Penelope really up to?” In Atwood’s dazzling playful retelling the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing With wit and verve drawing on the story telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned she gives Penelope new life and reality and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery 3 ”We had no voiceWe had no nameWe had no choiceWe had one faceOne face the sameThis book focuses on the story of Penelope and the twelve maids immortalised in myth by the story of Odysseus This is told from Penelope's point of view as she wonders through the underworld looking back on events that had taken place in her lifePenelope in this book is fiercely intelligent cunning and much than just the devoted wife as portrayed in Homer's The Odyssey It goes through her life as a young girl sent away to the Island of Ithaca married to the stranger Odysseus It describes her struggles with trying to find her place in Ithaca and conflicts with the overbearing Eurycleia When news comes of the war in Troy Odysseus sets out on his journey What is largely ignored in literature is the story of Penelope as she awaits her husbands returns Margaret Atwood fills in these gaps spectacularly She shows how Penelope becomes in charge of Ithaca as Odysseus is away how she deals with the burden of Telemachus her spoiled son how the suitors try to gain her hand in marriage and refuse to go away and of course the story and relationship she has with her maids The plot describes Penelope's struggles with being alone for 20 years with only the songs of travellers to inform her of Odysseus adventures She forever remains faithful to her husband despite learning of his sexual encounters with Goddesses It is fantastic to see the story of Penelope a cunning and intelligent woman brought to light As already known the story of the maids ends tragically Atwood does a brilliant job of describing their side of the story She does this through poems chorus' and a modern court scene at the end of the book The maids are described as beautiful and dutiful to Penelope They are Penelope's faithful allies in informing the ueen of what the suitors intend to do and what they say behind closed doors It is most likely that these women were raped by the suitors rather than consenting my their own admission It is refreshing that Margaret Atwood addresses this hidden voice and story of the maids rather than sticking to the classic version of the women merely just throwing themselves at the suitorsOverall this was a really easy and simple read I was able to breeze through the book as it is only under 200 pages Despite the shortness of this book Margaret Atwood includes gods goddesses and creatures from the beloved Greek myths as well as addressing the importance of the story of Penelope as a character and her maids Under the thumbs of women who as usual were being overemotional and showing no reasonableness and judgement I had not been attempting to catch men like flies on the contrary I'd merely been trying to avoid entanglement myself


10 thoughts on “The Penelopiad

  1. says:

    B 77% | Good Notes It succeeds in its ambitious concept and style but comes off like a postscript to The Odyssey than its own story


  2. says:

    we had no voice we had no namewe had no choicewe had one faceone face the same we took the blameit was no fairbut now w're herewe're all here toothe same as youThe truly successful myths are those that can be retold over and over from different angles and still speak to a contemporary audience with the same intensity as to past centuries When Margaret Atwood picked up the story of Penelope and Odysseus she kept all the familiar ideas and yet it is an entirely modern vision and a modern voice speaking She looks beyond the famous stars of the narrative Helen Odysseus Agamemnon Menelaus Penelope and lets a chorus line of maids have their say She retells the story of their harsh lives of their vulnerability Many of them experience rape and abuse from the suitors that gather to court Penelope during the absence of her husband and on returning home Odysseus decides to kill them because they slept with the enemy without his permission It is a rare treat of tragicomedy when Penelope describes their fury in the Hades after all characters involved in the drama have left the stage of the living The maids demanding justice in an objective court are left disappointed because the judge doesn't want to be guilty of an anachronism Don't we hear that uite often still? All those cases of sexual violence against women justified with different times different customs Is that a reason not to raise the issue at all? How can the times and customs ever change then? Those maids singing in a choir of rage against the double standards of a patriarchal society seem both ancient and prophetic at the same time While they denounce the millennia of injustice and hypocrisy they also become early members of the #metoo movement begging the audience of famous mythological stories to listen to the neglected minor characters as well Famous actresses of the caliber of Helen or Penelope may speak for themselves but what about the powerless poor girls in the background? The chambermaids barmaids nurses? Who speaks for those young women?Atwood does in the slightly arrogant bitter voice of privileged Penelope a woman in power but with her own share of frustrations too clever for her own good and in the eternal shadow of her barbie doll cousin HelenAnd what about Odysseus? Well this is not the Odyssey it is the Penelopiad so he is acting backstage evasive and hard to catch a mere prereuisite for the lives of the women of Ithaca Do I recommend this short novel? Yes to those of you who love myths and are well acuainted with Homer's take on the household drama in the palace of Ithaca as well as with the geopolitics of the time involving the disastrous Trojan war and plenty of other local conflicts To see and value the slight changes Atwood made to the common myth one has to know where she is coming from I would also suggest trying some of her major novels before choosing this thin volume as it is uite different even though it is clearly a typical Atwood as well to contradict myself in the last paragraph Oh whatever just read it and judge for yourselves whether she is guilty of anachronism or not I'd say no as her topic has never ceased to be contemporary I hope my children will grow up and look back to say that the kind of injustice she describes is a thing of the past Period But chances are that The Handmaid's Tale will still be acted out in some places and that the minor characters in the big plays will be treated with contempt by those who are famous enough to get away with anything Until that stops Atwood's chorus should keep singing for JUSTICE And we should chime in


  3. says:

    Often I amuse myself by trying to imagine the ideas conversations or circumstances that led to the writing of certain books For example I think Philippa Gregory wrote The Other Boleyn Girl because she wanted to write a smutty romance novel disguised as history Shakespeare probably wrote The Taming of the Shrew because someone bet him he couldn't write a play where domestic abuse is interpreted as matrimonial devotion and Bette Green wrote Summer of My German Soldier specifically to torture 10th grade Madeline In the case of The Penelopiad I like to think that the idea for its creation came about in the mind of Margaret Atwood right after she read The Odyssey for what was probably the 10th time Probably in the original Greek too Anyway I think something like this went on in Atwood's head just with a lot better vocabulary of courseGod I hate Odysseus Okay Homer you know what I'm gonna do? I'm going to take your story and write in from Penelope's perspective and instead of portraying Odysseus as a hero I'm going to turn him into the jerkiest jerk who ever jerked And there will be tap dancing maids HAAnd she did This book is the result and I can practically hear Atwood cackling madly at her computer as she types the story


  4. says:

    Margaret Atwood gives us a reworked reinterpretation of Homer's The Odyssey that lends itself rather well to our present day in its contemporary echoes of our MeToo movement today We have the abandoned for 20 years but faithful Penelope learning to manage the court in the absence of her philandering husband Numerous suitors come to court Penelope commands the twelve maids slaves in reality to be used and abused to deal with them The inherently flawed Odysseus spent the first 10 years fighting the Trojan War and the following 10 years having adventures having a riotous time before finally returning to Ithaca He is painted as a over hyped testerone fuelled hypocrite barely deserving of the saintly Penelope Odysseus orders the twelve maids to be murdered feeling they have betrayed him and left a stain on his sense of honour However Penelope herself overwhelmed by guilt at this heinous act does not come out of this tale wellAtwood has each character give a defence of their behaviour from their own perspective spinning the most positive picture possible in their efforts to redeem themselves They have no wish to be held accountable or feel any sense of responsibility This feminist focus on the little known twelve maids from Homer skirts around the periphery of the idea that these powerless women were asking for what they got and deserving of their harrowing fate Atwood gives them a voice in which they bitterly lay out their side of the story When we see much of what happens to women and the treatment of them in society and social media it begs the uestion whether much has changed from the ancient times retold by Atwood This is a short but darkly humorous witty poetic read that is thought provoking and entertaining Many thanks to Canongate for an ARC


  5. says:

    This was technically a reread but I couldn't remember the specific dates I read it the first time so I recorded this as a first time readSuch an enjoyable uick and surprising retelling of The Odyssey from Penelope's perspective Nearly everyone knows Odysseus smart witty promiscuous; tackles 1 too many mythical beasts over the decade he is missing on his return from The Trojan WarPenelope is sassy intelligent and than a little bit pissed off at her cousin Helen for causing this war and therefore preventing her husbands safe returnWe also get a new persepctive of Helen Usually she is seen as sweet beautiful obviously kind etc Here we seen her as vain nasty and particularly cruelThe Penelopiad is told from Penelope's POV from Hades long after she and the others from antiuity are dead She talks to the reader in the 21st century to tell her side of the story There is also an important focus on the 12 maids who were murdered on Odysseus' return for sleeping with the suitors who were hounding Penelope and her home during Odysseus' absenceA fantastic perspective to read it makes you uestion a lot of Odysseus' behaviours and in particular his massive double standards sleeping with countless goddesses but fuming if Penelope so much as looked at another manOverall a great book to read alongside or after The Odyssey


  6. says:

    ➽ And the moral of this rereread is still have nothing to report about this one Except that it's sheer brilliance obviously I have it on very good authority that Margaret Atwood absolutely lurves this gif just so you know And I'm not even kidding I thinkMarch 2015The Greatness Syndrome when a book is so original thought provoking and fantastically written that there is nothing to say about it


  7. says:

    The Penelopiad or The Ballad of the Dead MaidsThis has been my introduction to Atwood and I have to admit that I feel slightly underwhelmed I went in with high expectations wondering how Atwood will take the 'waiting widow' of The Odyssey and transform it into a full length novel Turns out that she mostly indulges in recapitulating the bulk of the original with a few wild theories and speculations thrown in as supposed rumors that Penelope has gleaned in the after lifeWhich brings me to how the story is constructed and this happens to be the high water mark for this novel Atwood starts with Penelope addressing us from the other side of River Styx reaching us through the mysterious sounds of the night and the barks and hoots of unseen animals Penelope has grown bold since her death and is no longer the meek woman we saw in the original but a bold one who doesn't mind speaking her mind and spilling a few uncomfortable beansPenelope subjects all the popular characters of the odyssey to scrutiny but reserves a special attention for Odysseus Telemachus and Helen She convinces us with case by case analysis that Odysseus was no hero he was a lying and conniving manipulator of men who never uttered one truthful word in his life She talks of rumors that told her of what his real adventures were stripped of the trappings of myth Telemachus becomes a petulant teenager full of rebellion against his mother and Helen becomes the ultimate shrew seductress and a femme fatale of sortsBut the story that Atwood really wants to tell is not of Penelope that story is hardly changed except to assert speculations on the original text whether Penelope really saw through Odysseus disguise or not What if she did? It hardly changed the storyThe real twist and the only reason to take up this book is to see Atwood's exploration and reinvention of the twelve maids who were killed by Odysseus in punishment for betraying him by sleeping with the suitors These twelve girls are the Chorus in this book and appear every now and then playing a baroue accompaniment to the text and giving us new perspectives on their story This carries on until Penelope herself reveals to us that they were never betraying Odysseus she had asked them herself to get acuainted with the suitors to get obtain information for her They had never betrayed Odysseus or his kingdom So their murder was just that murder This was Atwood's plot twist and her intended uestion was about the morality of this 'honor killing' as she calls the hanging of the slaves which she confesses in the foreword used to haunt her when she was young 'Why were they killed?' she used to ask herself and tries to present their case in this modernized version which even includes a 23rd century trial of OdysseusIn the end though the reader hardly gets anything beyond these idle speculations and supplemental myths and small factoids like how Helen was really Penelope's cousin and that they have to eat flowers in Hades Even the main point of the book about the dead maids too ignores the fact that Odysseus genuinely seems to believe that they betrayed him by helping the suitors in various ways and hence it becomes as uestion of misinformation than morality and the blame will fall back on the shoulders of Penelope herself rendering this whole exercise moot Just go read the original again; the short hops of imagination that Atwood has taken in this retelling can easily be overtaken by the leaps you might make yourself in a re reading that you might treat yourself to on a leisurely sunday afternoon and those will surely be impressive as well as intellectually rewarding


  8. says:

    This was so beautifully written As someone who's fairly familiar with the myth of Penelope and Odysseus it was uite fascinating to see how a modern day writer would spin the story Atwood did this brilliantly I love stories that write from the perspective of the main character especially when the said character is looking back in hindsightVery creative


  9. says:

    3 ”We had no voiceWe had no nameWe had no choiceWe had one faceOne face the sameThis book focuses on the story of Penelope and the twelve maids immortalised in myth by the story of Odysseus This is told from Penelope's point of view as she wonders through the underworld looking back on events that had taken place in her lifePenelope in this book is fiercely intelligent cunning and much than just the devoted wife as portrayed in Homer's The Odyssey It goes through her life as a young girl sent away to the Island of Ithaca married to the stranger Odysseus It describes her struggles with trying to find her place in Ithaca and conflicts with the overbearing Eurycleia When news comes of the war in Troy Odysseus sets out on his journey What is largely ignored in literature is the story of Penelope as she awaits her husbands returns Margaret Atwood fills in these gaps spectacularly She shows how Penelope becomes in charge of Ithaca as Odysseus is away how she deals with the burden of Telemachus her spoiled son how the suitors try to gain her hand in marriage and refuse to go away and of course the story and relationship she has with her maids The plot describes Penelope's struggles with being alone for 20 years with only the songs of travellers to inform her of Odysseus adventures She forever remains faithful to her husband despite learning of his sexual encounters with Goddesses It is fantastic to see the story of Penelope a cunning and intelligent woman brought to light As already known the story of the maids ends tragically Atwood does a brilliant job of describing their side of the story She does this through poems chorus' and a modern court scene at the end of the book The maids are described as beautiful and dutiful to Penelope They are Penelope's faithful allies in informing the ueen of what the suitors intend to do and what they say behind closed doors It is most likely that these women were raped by the suitors rather than consenting my their own admission It is refreshing that Margaret Atwood addresses this hidden voice and story of the maids rather than sticking to the classic version of the women merely just throwing themselves at the suitorsOverall this was a really easy and simple read I was able to breeze through the book as it is only under 200 pages Despite the shortness of this book Margaret Atwood includes gods goddesses and creatures from the beloved Greek myths as well as addressing the importance of the story of Penelope as a character and her maids Under the thumbs of women who as usual were being overemotional and showing no reasonableness and judgement I had not been attempting to catch men like flies on the contrary I'd merely been trying to avoid entanglement myself


  10. says:

    I really do not like this book I find it to be very poorly constructed with glaring inconsistencies and sadly underdeveloped characters that were merely pastiches rather than living breathing feeling multi layered human beings But I'm lazy and not in the mood to write a review that deconstructs this whole abysmal mess However my good friend Gabby also read this it was a book group read of ours and she really takes the time to break things down in her review which I'm linking right here I definitely recommend that you all read it Eh? Is that it???? scratches head Did Atwood forget to actually tell a story because it sure as heck seems like that to me This felt too preachy to me a similar feeling I had regarding The Handmaid's Tale I swear Atwood does a lot of telling but never actually shows how her characters are feeling I mean we as readers obvs get outraged because it's clear to see the second class citizen that is the woman and then there are the slaves and servant girls who are even sinned again But where was the emotion? The empathy???? This was just another feminism by numbers retelling of an ancient story that didn't really add any new depth to the existing material And what was the deal with defaming Helen's character so much???? Felt like utter slut shaming to me The treatment of Clytemnestra was similar And for all the talk about how this was supposed to be a story to expose the wrongness of hanging the twelve maids I never once felt connected to them because they were nameless automatons sharing this singular voice Nah This is poor as Greek mythology retellings go And further proves to me that Atwood and I do not see eye to eye


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