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3.8 out of 5 stars14
3.8 out of 5 stars
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I am not normally a fan of Margaret Atwood's writings. I often find that she is too dark or has too much edge. Not that it is not good writing, and she is probably currently the most famous of the living Canadian authors, she just isn't usually my thing. I cannot say that for this book.

The Penelopiad is a hilarious romp through a story that most of us know, but told outside of time. There is an old saying that "dead men don't tell tales" and that may be true, but in this inventive retelling, a dead woman and her chorus of dead girls do just that.
Atwood has turned this myth on its head and told it from the female perspective. Unfortunately, our heroine is dead and in Hades, retelling her story from across the river Styx. She is telling her whole story but especially the events around Odysseus' long absence during the war against Troy and that unfortunate event with her cousin Helen.
The story is written in the format of a Greek Tragedy but with the humor and temperament of a comedy. Our chorus is the twelve dead maids, hung strung together on a ship's rope by Odysseus. They appear from time to time, in song, dance, or mock plays and trials to re-enact events from their lives to punctuate Penelope's story.
The twists and turns in this story will make you laugh out loud. A friend of mine who read it stated, 'It begs to be read aloud.' And I could not agree more. Pick up the book, get some friends together and read it aloud, over an evening or two together. Much fun will be had with the ghosts of our 13 dead ladies.
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on January 2, 2010
I must admit that I've never been much of an Atwood fan. Every once in a while I'll tackle another of her "classics" (for the feminist-leaning Canadian woman Atwood is required reading, is she not?!)but sadly each time the experiment ends with me feeling vaguley suicidal - life is soooo bleak for an Atwood heroine!

Well, Penelope's fate is bleak as well. The Penelopiad is written from beyond the grave, as it were, with a continued Greek chorus (literally) made of her hanged maids.

But it is a very funny, very clever, and quite thought-provoking story as well. Atwood is certainly a more-than-competent writer, and one gets the sense that she was feeling quite playful when she penned this little volume.

I'm having a hard time deciding on 4 stars or 5 with this one. It deserves 5 for some of the passages of Penelope in the underworld - very nicely done - but I think 4 is a more accurate rating of my overall enjoyment of the story. Repetitive in spots, and we are ceaselessly flogged with Atwood's messages about female oppression. Enough already - we GET it, Margaret!

Is this a wishy-washy review? Not really meant to be - the book is definitely worth a read. Quick and easy, and leaves one smiling rather than suicidal - always a bonus with this author, don't you think?
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I am not normally a fan of Margaret Atwood's writings. I often find that she is too dark or has too much edge. Not that it is not good writing, and she is probably currently the most famous of the living Canadian authors, she just isn't usually my thing. I cannot say that for this book.

The Penelopiad is a hilarious romp through a story that most of us know, but told outside of time. There is an old saying that "dead men don't tell tales" and that may be true, but in this inventive retelling, a dead woman and her chorus of dead girls do just that.

Atwood has turned this myth on its head and told it from the female perspective. Unfortunately, our heroine is dead and in Hades, retelling her story from across the river Styx. She is telling her whole story but especially the events around Odysseus' long absence during the war against Troy and that unfortunate event with her cousin Helen.

The story is written in the format of a Greek Tragedy but with the humor and temperament of a comedy. Our chorus is the twelve dead maids, hung strung together on a ship's rope by Odysseus. They appear from time to time, in song, dance, or mock plays and trials to re-enact events from their lives to punctuate Penelope's story.

The twists and turns in this story will make you laugh out loud. A friend of mine who read it stated, "It begs to be read aloud." And I could not agree more. Pick up the book, get some friends together and read it aloud, over an evening or two together. Much fun will be had with the ghosts of our 13 dead ladies.
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on March 1, 2016
Ah, Atwood. I've been reading her works since my eighth grade teacher gifted me her Journals of Susanna Moodie with an inscription telling me that she looked forward to the day when I would bring her my own published work. I've had a love/hate relationship with Atwood ever since.

But The Penelopiad was new to me. My daughter is reading it for her AP English class and she asked me if I could hold on to it for her when we were out this past weekend. It was one of those moments when I found myself early for a meeting and sitting there with my Americano. I had a choice: I could either read the literary book my kid just gave me, or play the Dot game incessantly. I chose to read.

And that was it. I was hooked.

Now if you've read some of my other reviews, you'll know I'm a huge fan of fractured fairy tales. And while Greek mythology and a retelling of the Odyssey isn't exactly a fairy tale, it has elements of what I love. Atwood tells the story completely from the point of view of Penelope and the twelve maidens. It is classically Atwood and absolutely brilliant.

The academic in me, recommends reading The Odyssey before The Penelopiad but it isn't really necessary. If you've seen Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld (a really sh*tty movie) or had a peek at Percy Jackson (a really good series) you'll recognize some of the stories. But the real treasure in The Penelopiad is that it is told from Penelope's point of view (after her death).

Only Atwood would take the quintessential hero story and say, wait a minute! What about the 15-year old girl he married and dragged off to his remote island and then left there with a baby while he gallivanted around the countryside for TWENTY years? What about HER story?

This telling is a feminist re-imagination of the legend. In classic Atwood style, it re-imagines the tale we think we know and forces the reader to question what the true telling of The Odyssey might be. (If you are unfamiliar with Atwood's work, shame on you! Get reading! But she has taken many, many texts and dug the subtext out and ran with it.)

This book has rekindled my love affair with Atwood's work. I highly recommend you check it out.
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on June 8, 2007
I think this book does not get the credit it deserves. From a time where mainly all classic stories were told from a male perspective, finally, readers are enlightened by a tale where the woman is legend in her own right.

This book goes beyond the ordinary tellings of a good-natured wife: dutiful, patient, and faithful. Rather, instead twisting Penelope into some sort of a rebellious figure, Atwood stays true to Homer's story. Atwood reinforces Homer's character with greater zeal - Penelope has much to overcome to uphold her good-natured housewife identity. She feels much more real, more tangible than any other mythical figure ever told. Atwood's ability to create characters like Penelope is one her best gifts.

A humourous, smart and cunning story. Personally, I felt much satisfaction after reading this book.
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I am not normally a fan of Margaret Atwood's writings. I often find that she is too dark or has too much edge. Not that it is not good writing, and she is probably currently the most famous of the living Canadian authors, she just isn't usually my thing. I cannot say that for this book.

The Penelopiad is a hilarious romp through a story that most of us know, but told outside of time. There is an old saying that "dad men don't tell tales" and that may be true, but in this inventive retelling, a dead woman and her chorus of dead girls do just that.

Atwood has turned this myth on its head and told it from the female perspective. Unfortunately, our heroine is dead and in Hades, retelling her story from across the river Styx. She is telling her whole story but especially the events around Odysseus's long absence during the war against Troy and that unfortunate event with her cousin Helen.

The story is written in the format of a Greek Tragedy but with the humor and temperament of a comedy. Our chorus is the twelve dead maids, hung strung together on a ship's rope by Odysseus. They appear from time to time, in song, dance, or mock plays and trials to re-enact events from their lives to punctuate Penelope's story.

The twists and turns in this story will make you laugh out loud. A friend of mine who read it stated, "It begs to be read aloud." And I could not agree more. Pick up the book, get some friends together and read it aloud, over an evening or two together. Much fun will be had with the ghosts of our 13 dead ladies.
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on January 23, 2015
Penelope like Odysseus is a deceiver and a trickster, that is the demise that causes Odysseus that brings about the hanging of her maids. Her son Telemachus tries unsuccessfully to persuade her/ Penelope to stop the maids from flirting with her numerous suitors.

Whoever reads this will enjoy it more if they have some knowledge of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
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on September 18, 2007
Atwood is in fine form in this retelling of the Odyssey. Her writing is sharp but humourous and many of the images stayed with me for long after I had finished the book. A knowledge of the classics is not necessary to enjoy this novel.

Recommended.
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on January 15, 2010
I really enjoyed this book and honestly I wasn't expecting to for some reason. Definitely funny, interesting and thought provoking. One of Atwood's best. Expect to question everything you have been taught.
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on September 5, 2009
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.

[...]
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