The Penelopiad

After talking to my Greek Lit teacher about The Palace of Illusions, she mentioned a similar book, The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.  She let me borrow her copy and I read it today (after finishing Tough Guys Don’t Dance this morning) and while The Palace of Illusions is a good idea carried out effectively, The Penelopiad is absolutely brilliant.

Book Stats

196 pages (paperback)


Stand alone-ish (read the Odyssey before reading this, but if you’re familiar with the story of the Odyssey you can get through this easily enough, for the Odyssey I suggest the translation by Stanley Lombardo, it was an easy read)


This book is the story of Penelope that takes place during the 20 years that Odysseus was away during the Iliad and the Odyssey.  Penelope is a fantastic character in this book and has a wonderful snarky/sarcastic attitude.


Oddly enough, this book is set in modern times.  The story is set with Penelope being a shade in Hades and after 3,000 years of being largely ignored by all of history.  She is telling you her story as she remembers it, the story that no one has told for 3,000 years.


For the overall plot, if you’ve read the Odyssey or are at all familiar with the story, you know what is going to happen.  But hearing it from Penelope’s perspective is new and different and interesting.  The author focuses on Penelope’s struggles with dealing with her lack of power and trying to control what she can from behind the scenes.  The author also focuses on the maids that Odysseus killed after first killing the suitors who had been courting Penelope.

Another fantastic aspect of the story that the author does is that she cuts to a chorus part (usually the 12 maids) who will sing a small song or tell a short story throughout the book.  If you’ve ever read any plays from Ancient Greece (which we just finished in my class) you’ll notice that the writers commonly had chorus parts that were used to help fill in the backstory to the play.  This is very well done in this book and doesn’t feel out of place at all, even though it is something that is very strange to most people reading modern literature.


I loved the book and didn’t want to put it down until I finished reading it.  It was a brilliant concept beautifully executed.

Overall Grade

If you enjoy Greek Mythology at all go find this book, it’s well worth your time.


Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. I never heard of this book, but being a Classics major I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. Sounds like an exciting read!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: