The Penelopiad, Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (9 ratings)


For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business.

Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep over a hundred lustful, greedy and bloodthirsty suitors at bay...And then, when Odysseus finally returns and slaughters the murderous suitors, he brutally hangs Penelope's twelve beloved maids.

What were his motives? And what was Penelope really up to?Critically acclaimed when it was first published as part of Canongate's Myth series, and following a very successful adaptation by the RSC, this new edition of The Penelopiad sees Margaret Atwood give Penelope a modern and witty voice to tell her side of the story, and set the record straight for good.


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Showing 1 - 5 of 9 reviews.

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The idea behind the Penelopiad is to give us Penelope's perspective on the Odyssey years, and on Odysseus' return. If I were choosing authors to write that story, Atwood would have topped my list. And that would have been a mistake, because she did write it, and it's a big disappointment.Most of the book is narrated by Penelope's soul, which has been in Hades for thousands of years. Scattered through Penelope's narration are chapters sung by a chorus of Penelope's maids, who were executed by Odysseus when he returned to Ithaca.Penelope's chapters are uninteresting. Atwood's language is flat, and seems hastily written. The character never fills out, and rarely offers any insight.Penelope contradicts some elements of the Odyssey account. Atwood's Penelope, for example, recognizes Odysseus in his disguise, but pretends that she doesn't. These contradictions seem unmotivated by Penelope's character, and in some cases (the disguise case among them) they don't really make sense. On the other hand, some plot points agree with confusing aspects of the Odyssey account and don't bother to explain them. Why does Odysseus kill Penelope's maids? It's a big question at the end of the Odyssey, and we don't get any kind of satisfying answer in the Penelopiad.The chorus chapters are more interesting. They are written in verse, and grow increasingly energetic and funny as the novel goes on. In these bits, I can see some of the vigor I expected from Atwood. There are glimpses of her distinctive perspective on people, and her love of language.

Review by

I have just spent a few hours in the autumn sunshine reading this very delightful retelling of the myth of Penelope and Odysseus. This is from a series of the myths told in a contempory style which works well. I especially enjoyed the sections featuring the prose of the twelve maids.

Review by

Slightly bizarre book about what Penelope was doing while waiting for Odysseus to return. Despite the different circumstances, the problems of mothers-in-law haven't changed much and the depiction of suitors crowding around our heroine reminds the reader of vultures hovering, not even waiting for the body to be dead.The story is interspersed with verses from the chorus and others, as any good Greek play should be, reminding us of the drama and performance that goes into this epic.

Review by

A retelling of the myth of Odysseus’s wife, Penelope, from Penelope’s own point of view. All I can really say about this is that it’s exactly what you would expect a Margaret Atwood retelling of the myth of Penelope to be. *Exactly.*

Review by

A clever retelling of the Penelope and Odysseus/Ulysses myth, told in retrospect from the perspective of the faithful wife and her twelve maids. I wanted to read the story without turning to Homer's <i>Odyssey</i>, and Margaret Atwood's fresh insight into the character relayed the basic details - Helen of Troy, the suitors, weaving - quickly, simply and of course pointedly (with a feminist take on the original myth). I might eventually get around to reading <i>The Odyssey</i>, though, just to compare!

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