After my last post on Salmon Rushdie’s Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights, I could not help but be reminded of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, a story I greatly enjoyed. Like Rushdie’s latest title, The Penelopiad finds its roots in myths and folktales – specifically in one myth, Homer’s The Odyssey. However, Atwood gives this story new life by making it from the perspective of Penelope, Odysseus wife.
The Penelopiad tells the tale of Penelope’s experiences during the years her husband was away fighting in the Trojan war and then making his way home. Penelope, over the course of those many years, managed to keep the numerous suitors vying for her hand (and control of her kingdom) at bay until her husband managed to return home. Using tricks and deceptions to accomplish her goal, Penelope shows herself to be just as cunning in The Penelopiad as her husband was in the The Odyssey.
Reading the tale from Penelope’s perspective was highly entertaining, and felt very true to Greek Mythology. Atwood used a number of devices to give the story its authentic feel, such as the story being interspersed with dialogue from the “chorus,” or the visit to Hades where Penelope discusses the aftermath of the story.
The Penelopiad is the perfect book to spend time with on a lazy day, because once started, you will be hard pressed to put the book down. It’s probably a good thing that it is not a long read.