Friday, 22 June 2007

The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood

Many years ago I studied 'The Odyssey' for Classics GCSE, learning bizarre mnemonics to remember the order of the stories and giggling terribly immaturely at the frequent mentions of the 'rosy-fingered dawn'. When I picked up 'The Penelopiad' I assumed I would be fairly familiar with the story; Penelope sat at home weaving with her maids, trying to put off the Suitors while waiting for Odysseus and when he came back there was something about moving furniture? I had never really considered the backstory of Penelope's family and her marriage to Odysseus, and was surprised that Helen was her cousin, and that Odysseus had competed for her hand in marriage before moving on to Penelope after Menelaus won. The dynamics of a complicated family life with the in-laws living together (albeit in a palace) are captured in a wonderfully grating way, with Penelope's insights into her famously stunning cousin showing her self-awareness tinged with jealousy.

The story of the maids, their grisly end and Penelope's part in their actions was intriguing and contradictory. I guess Dr House is right - 'Everybody lies'. I've loved Margaret Atwood's work for years, and this glorious mix of poetry and prose, life and death, myth and home-truth has to be savoured. My only complaint is that it's short enough to read in a day - I wanted it to go on and on.


DOT said...

M. Atwood has the ability to write faster than I can read.

My introduction to her was through Alias Grace, a wonderful book. I then tried, and tried again to read The Blind Assassin and, for whatever reason, I just couldn't complete it. It sits on my bookshelf regarding me reproachfully every time I pass. Perhaps I ought to make another attempt.

The Penelopiad sounds intriguing as I have a soft spot for Greek mythology. Just hope someone has handed a copy into my local Oxfam bookstore recently.

Julia Buckley said...

'Everybody lies' - how true. Never trust anyone who doesn't tell the odd porky, that's what I say!

Laura Denker said...

Did you know that the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa are working together on the world premiere of a play by Margaret ATwood based on her novel The Penelopiad?
It will be in Ottawa for an exclusive North American run September 21-October 6, and opens at the RSC in Stratford upon Avon on August 2.
It's going to be an amazing production featuring 7 Canadian actresses and 6 UK-based actresses and directed by Josette Bushell-Mingo who was in The Lion King and has trained with Julie Taymor.
Read Kate Hennig's blog about her rehearsal experiences working on the play in the UK at

bohemebelle said...

love your blog, loved the book

love atwood, love carter

have you read the bloody chamber

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