Saturday, June 16, 2012

"The Penelopiad" by Margaret Atwood

As a Literature student, I have to read lots of books. This year's load of books was particularly heavy, given that I had to read five books for Spanish Literature, one for English Linguistics and four for English Literature in one semester. I read them all but one, I didn't have time to read a fourth 600 pages book and had to give up on that one (and of course, that is the one that came up at the exam, but that is another story). Anyway, even if that was a lot, I really enjoyed most of them. From Nobel Prizes such as the Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the South African J.M.Coetzee, to Indian, Canadian and South American writers, I really got to read many interesting authors. That is the point of my studies, too. For my English Literature class, we had to pick one book to read on top of the others. Having read "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood for the class (and really loving it!), I decided to pick another one by that same author.

The Penelopiad was written in 2005 by Margaret Atwood and is a rewriting of the story of Penelope, Odysseus' wife, from The Odyssey. Penelope tells her story, from her childhood in Sparta with a Naiad mother and an overly affective father (after having attempted to kill her as an infant) to her marriage with Odysseus and her life in Ithaca with him gone and an enormous number of suitors trying to court her. In The Odyssey, Odysseus comes back to Ithaca after his long journey back from the Trojan War and kills all of Penelope's suitors and hangs 12 maids. The reason of this hanging was never really explained in Homer's book, and it bothered Atwood. She thus decided to write what she thought had happened, from her own point of view.

I really enjoyed this book because I love Greek mythology. A modern rewriting of such an old tale was really interesting. Atwood's typical irony is a great part of the book, Penelope questions her portrayal by Homer at all times and wants to set the record straight: she is not the ideal loyal wife depicted in The Odyssey, she was just trying to survive. There are also some touches of feminism which gave the book a lot of its strength and made me like it even more.

It is short, it is interesting, it is captivating. You need to read The Penelopiad.

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