Last year one of my favourite books was The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker which was a retelling, from the point of view of the women, of the siege of Troy. I enjoyed this immensely despite having a scant knowledge of the original story. There seems to be a number of myth retellings being published currently and my seventh book in the 12 in 12 Challenge for February is The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood which describes the events when Odysseus returns to his home and his wife after at least 20 years of travelling. I don’t know the original story but I greatly enjoyed this version.
This is a slight book and I will confess that I read it on my Kindle so it didn’t really assist with reducing the physical to-be-read pile which is the object of these themed reads for 2020. The narrator is Penelope but told from her presence in the underworld during the present day so she brings context and hindsight to what happens as well as a number of contemporary references. Interspersed with her story are poems, songs and comments from the twelve maids who are killed and who act as a Greek chorus.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought that Penelope’s attempts to unravel the myth and explain more rationally what happened were entertaining. I thought that the author beautifully grasped and portrayed Penelope’s increasingly desperate situation and the threats to her person and situation. I also thought that the author gave us a glimpse into the workings of fate and the inevitability of what happened.
I highly recommend this book although, even though it is obviously set in Greece, I didn’t feel that it really gave me an insight into the country or physical environment.