So I’m going to geek out on you a bit with this one, so bear with me. One thing you may not know about me is that I have a degree in Classical Civilisation, and I especially loved studying ancient greek plays, poems and literature. I have recently embarked upon the Canongate Myth Series, in which contemporary authors retell ancient myths, and started with one of my faves – the story of Odysseus and Penelope.
The ancient epic poems are all told from the viewpoint of the hero, and Margaret Atwood has shaken things up by retelling the story of the Odyssey from the point of view of Penelope – Odysseus’ wife – who is now in the afterlife and has seen the world change from ancient times to today. Little snippets here and there of Penelope’s understanding of modern society and technology are both clever and funny – and one thing I definitely wasn’t expecting when reading this was to laugh! The book is also a mix of Penelope’s narration and choruses from her 12 maids – nicely echoing the structure of ancient greek plays and taking me back to lovely lectures in Leeds!
My only experience of Margaret Atwood prior to reading this was studying Surfacing at school – which I reeeally struggled with and consequently I’ve been avoiding her books like the plague ever since – however I loved this and am now going to start embracing the Atwood! It’s also worth mentioning that you really don’t need a background in ancient history to enjoy this book! The scene is set succinctly in the introduction and then you can dive right in and enjoy the narrative.