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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Margaret Atwood – The Penelopiad

This is a deconstruction of Homer‘s Odyssey from the wife’s point of view. Margaret Atwood lends Penelope a twenty-first-century voice and allows her to retell the story of her marriage and life with (and without) the hero of Greek myth, Odysseus.

. . . he took a cable which had seen service on a blue-bowed ship, made one end fast to a high column in the portico, and threw the other over the round house, high up, so that their feet would not touch the ground. As when long-winged thrushes or doves get entangled in a snare . . . so the women’s heads were held fast in a row, with nooses round their necks, to bring them to the most pitiable end. For a little while their feet twitched, but not for very long.

The Odyssey, Book 22 (470-473)

Not really a novel, this is a modern reinterpretation of a myth, but no less enjoyable for that. The voice and consciousness of Penelope is that of a woman of our own times, albeit coming to us from the underworld. Although her last life was in ancient Greece, Margaret Atwood’s Penelope has managed to keep abreast of the times and historical developments and even of modern fashions by her association with continually reincarnating souls of her acquaintance. At last we discover what really happened when Odysseus was out of the house for twenty years, how she managed to contain and control the droves of suitors who camped outside her door, her relationship with her son and with her cousin, the beautiful trollop, Helen of Troy.Finally her role in the hanging of the twelve maids is revealed and we are left with a funny and often indignant account of a woman’s life as it might have been a very long time ago.

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