Monday, 30 May 2016

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood Stars

'It never hurts to be of semi-divine birth. Or it never hurts immediately.' - Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

Even if you haven't read The Odyssey (and, I'll admit, I haven't managed to force myself to the end of it yet), you probably know the story of Odysseus. He's a Greek hero.

(As are most men in classical literature.)

Specifically, he's the Greek hero who took ten years to get home from the Trojan war. Not that that was his fault, what with the witches, and the sirens, and the brief trip to the underworld... Anyway, whilst Odysseus was sailing across the ocean, tricking his adversaries and snogging every woman in sight, his wife was waiting for him at home, fending off suitors with a trick of her own. His wife is, of course, Penelope, and The Penelopiad is her story. 

The Penelope of The Odyssey is more of an archetype than a person. She's a faithful wife. A concerned mother. A 'stick used to beat other woman with,' as Atwood puts it. Atwood's Penelope is different. Sure, she's long-suffering, but she's also sarcastic, flawed, and the perfect match for her trickster of a husband. 

And, of course, the biggest difference between Atwood's Penelope and the Penelope of The Odyssey is that we're not entirely sure that we can trust her.

This might be Penelope's story, but hers is not the only point of view. The maids' narrate every other chapter, and they have their own version of events to tell. At first, I felt like the maids slowed the story down and didn't really add much to it, but don't skip their chapters, don't silence them again. 

Overall, this was a fun read, Penelope's voice is wonderfully candid, and the maid's are haunting. Four out of five stars for one of the most enjoyable course books I've had this term.

Do you like unreliable narrators? Have you read the Penelopiad?

P.S. Apologies about the change in font (or size, or something) halfway down, Blogger did it by itself and nothing I tried could fix it.