For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan War was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours, and keep over 100 lustful, greedy, and bloodthirsty suitors at bay....
And then, when Odysseus finally returns and slaughters the murderous suitors, he brutally hangs Penelope's 12 beloved maids. What were his motives? And what was Penelope really up to?
©2005 O.W. Toad Ltd. (P)2012 Canongate Books
Kildonan by the sea
This is very much a Tragicomedy that more than a novella wants to be a satirical feminist play. For those of us that enjoy the heroic retelling of this stories this will come at first like a cold shower or boiling hot one, but if you stay and continue reading you will see an unmasking of the romanticised cruelties required for our heroes to be so virile and disdainful of others lives and the bitterness that that injects into women's lives no matter what their social status.
The Penelope we encounter in these pages is honest but guarded with her honesty even now that she is just a spirit, she is also bitter and resentful of her times and what was imposed on her, she dislikes to this day Helen for making her life more difficult, but we see she can not escape her tender feeling for Odysseus though she knows him better than most, perhaps she forgives him because he returned. When she looks at our world she still sees it as dangerous and chooses not to reincarnate.
The twelve maids are a chorus that interrupts and interjects their views and represent women in the lower classes and slaves. They were defenceless and without rights or pity from anyone, ponds in a tragedy but even though slain in the tragedy, that was not the tragedy. They sing of their humanity and reject their status as symbols.
I must confess that I love Margaret Atwood, Her mind like her writing are exceptional and she never disappoints.
I thought this was a solid novella, which was both funny and moving. I felt a lot of unexpected sympathy for characters, and felt the narrator, as well as Atwood, really drew on Penelope's negative emotions well, in a way that didn't make her seem whinging or unlikeable.
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