The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus

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The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus

by Margaret Atwood

Knopf Canada | August 15, 2006 | Trade Paperback

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus is rated 3 out of 5 by 4.
In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope--wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy--is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumours, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and--curiously--twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged Maids, asking: "What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?" In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality--and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 216 pages, 7.2 × 5.14 × 0.57 in

Published: August 15, 2006

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676974252

ISBN - 13: 9780676974256

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from My first Margaret Atwood Book I enjoyed the book, but admittedly it is not the type of book I often read. It was engaging and written more like a play than a novel. The book was laid out in an interesting way. For my full review, click here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2145403/book_review_penelopiad_by_margaret.html?cat=9
Date published: 2009-09-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Penelopiad... In my opinion, I found this book to be a bit dull... I suppose I'm not that very interested in mythology...
Date published: 2009-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! I've read this twice and I NEVER reread books. Loved it. I haven't read the Iliad or Odyssey but generally knew the story from university classes
Date published: 2008-05-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from if you've read the Odyssey, this is for you! this is aimed squarely at the Classics crowd, especially those who, like me, are particularly interested in the underlying currents of femininity in Classical litterature and the place of women in those societies that were so specifically focused on men and the so-called male sphere. this book apparently didn't do very well, got lots of bad reviews. i'm wondering if the people who were so intent on tearing it apart had, in fact, ever read the Odyssey... a good, quick read (and also an absolutely excellent play, if you ever have the chance to see it!)
Date published: 2007-11-29

– More About This Product –

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus

by Margaret Atwood

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 216 pages, 7.2 × 5.14 × 0.57 in

Published: August 15, 2006

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676974252

ISBN - 13: 9780676974256

Read from the Book

A Low ArtNow that I’m dead I know everything. This is what I wished would happen, but like so many of my wishes it failed to come true. I know only a few factoids that I didn’t know before. It’s much too high a price to pay for the satisfaction of curiosity, needless to say.Since being dead — since achieving this state of bonelessness, liplessness, breastlessness — I’ve learned some things I would rather not know, as one does when listening at windows or opening other people’s letters. You think you’d like to read minds? Think again.Down here everyone arrives with a sack, like the sacks used to keep the winds in, but each of these sacks is full of words — words you’ve spoken, words you’ve heard, words that have been said about you. Some sacks are very small, others large; my own is of a reasonable size, though a lot of the words in it concern my eminent husband. What a fool he made of me, some say. It was a specialty of his: making fools. He got away with everything, which was another of his specialties: getting away.He was always so plausible. Many people have believed that his version of events was the true one, give or take a few murders, a few beautiful seduct­resses, a few one-eyed monsters. Even I believed him, from time to time. I knew he was tricky and a liar, I just didn’t think he would play his tricks and try out his lies on me. Hadn’t I been faithful? Hadn’t I waited, and waited, and waited, despite the temptation — almost the compulsion — to do otherwise? And wha
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From the Publisher

In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope--wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy--is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumours, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and--curiously--twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged Maids, asking: "What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?" In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality--and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.

About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. A book of short stories called Stone Mattress: Nine Tales was published in 2014. Her novel, MaddAddam (2013), is the final volume in a three-book series that began with the Man-Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake (2003) and continued with The Year of the Flood (2009). The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short fiction) both appeared in 2006. A volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, a collection of non-fiction essays appeared in 2011. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth was adapted for the screen in 2012. Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian.
Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.
www.margaretatwood.ca

Editorial Reviews

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

The Penelopiad is a brilliant tour de force that takes an aspect of The Odyssey and opens up new vistas.... Atwood turns a gruesome, barbaric episode into an ironic tragedy of double agents.” National Post

“Two things are apparent when you begin reading The Penelopiad. First, this is a writer who is confidently at the height of her powers. And, second, she’s having fun.” The Vancouver Sun

“Atwood’s putting Penelope in the starring role is a fine and fresh revisioning.... Somehow (it is a measure of her genius that one cannot quite say how), she makes us hear the voice of Penelope, reflecting in Hades on her life, as if it were the voice of the most interesting gossip you have ever had coffee with.... This is a wonderful book.” The Globe and Mail

“Feels like a breath of fresh air blown in from the Mediterranean Sea.... The Penelopiad is Atwood in top form. The woman who wrote The Handmaid’s Tale hasn’t lost her acerbic touch.” The Gazette

“A startling commentary on the responsibility of power, and of how privilege can shade into complicity. The Penelopiad is anything but a woe-is-woman discourse.” Calgary Herald

“In this exquisitely poised book, Atwood blends intimate humour with a finely tempered outrage at the terrible injustice of the maids, phrasing both in language as potent as a curse.” The Sunday Times

Bookclub Guide

1. What is your overall opinion of The Penelopiad? Would you recommend it to a friend? Why, or why not?

2. Consider the personalities of the women in The Penelopiad, especially Penelope, Helen, and Penelope’s mother. How are they different? What do they tell us about women’s roles, within the poem and without?

3. Is Penelope a reliable narrator? Do you believe her version of events?

4. What do the various poetic and musical forms Margaret Atwood uses to tell the maids’ story bring to the telling? Why do you think she chose to write The Penelopiad in this way?

5. “Down here everyone arrives with a sack, like that sacks used to keep the winds in, but each of these sacks is full of words — words you’ve spoken, words you’ve heard, words that have been said about you.”

Discuss gossip and rumour / truth and lies in The Penelopiad.

6. If you have read other retellings of The Odyssey, compare The Penelopiad. You could look at Ulysses (by James Joyce) or O Brother Where Art Thou (directed by the Coen brothers), and discuss how each adapts and alters the original. Or, if you have read any, compare The Penelopiad’s approach to that taken by other writers in the Myths series.

7. “The heart is both key and lock.” How would you describe the marriage of Odysseus and Penelope?

8. How does The Penelopiad fit with other works by Margaret Atwood? Does she pursue similar themes here as elsewhere? If so, does she do so in the same way or differently?

9. How is Odysseus presented in The Penelopiad, as opposed to in The Odyssey? Why?

10. The Penelopiad is being turned into a piece for the stage. How would you cast it?

11. What are your criticisms of The Penelopiad?