Review: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood


in Books and literature

A clever take on an old tale, namely Homer’s Odyssey, Atwood’s short book manages to be critical without being abrasive. It definitely makes for an interesting complement to a text that has become central to so many literary and narrative traditions. In addition, there are a great many clever little nods to Greek myth and subsequent literature. I especially appreciated the sometimes-overt, sometimes-sly references to Tennyson.

The best thing about the book is certainly the character of Penelope as the narrator: speaking from Hades and interrupted on occassion by contributions from a chorus consisting of her murdered maids, around whom the story also revolves. The anachronism is handled skillfully, as aspects of modern and classical fiction sit side by side in the same way as Penelope’s observations about the ancient and modern world. This is the work of a confident author.

The book is concise to the point that there isn’t an enormous amount that can be said about it save that it’s clever and well worth the time it takes to read.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

B January 4, 2006 at 1:33 am

Good, it’s better blogging practice to have seperate posts for topical items. It will help with your search engine troubles.

Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 8:06 am


Milan January 4, 2006 at 10:30 am

Sneaky homonyms… thanks for pointing this out.

Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 3:31 pm

The Penelopiad has been sitting in my to-read pile for a couple of weeks now… I’m looking forward to getting to it once “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” is finished. There is much in the aforesaid that reminds me of you.


Milan January 4, 2006 at 3:32 pm

How so?

Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 6:41 pm

Well, the narrator is a photographer, and there is much discussion on the nature of love, and the power of music. I am making note of particular passages which I intend to pass on to you once I’ve finished the book.


Milan January 4, 2006 at 7:39 pm

I look forward to seeing them.

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