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katrina 25th June 2006 01:13 PM


The Penelopiad ~ Atwood


Just finished this slim volume of Atwood's. The book is one of a collection of novels being written retelling the myths. Definately an enchanting read, Atwood tells the tale of Penelope, Odysseus' wife from Penelope's view point. We also hear the thoughts of the 12 maids told in poetic style interspersed between Penelope's prose. Penelope provides a strong narrative giving her opinion on the events surrounding her marriage.

A good read that can be finished easily in one sitting


LesleyMP 24th August 2006 02:29 PM


I have just read the introductory book in this series 'A Short History of Myth' by Karen Armstrong (very good indeed) and now I am going to give 'The Penelopiad' a go. Will post my thoughts up here when I have finished it.


Stewart 24th August 2006 02:35 PM


I don't like the books in this series at all. Weight by Jeanette Winterson was unwholesome and then this, The Penelopiad, from an author that I find undigestable. A guy thing, perhaps. I can't even remember The Penelopiad and I only read it last month.


Royal Rother 24th August 2006 04:51 PM


I thought this might be a thread about Sheila's Wheels.


megustaleer 24th August 2006 06:23 PM

Originally Posted by Royal Rother

I thought this might be a thread about Sheila's Wheels.


Do you mean the insurance, or the song on this album?


BEWARE: Not suitable for playing at work, nor in the hearing of women drivers!

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LesleyMP 24th August 2006 06:23 PM

From Stewart '.....I don't like the books in this series at all.'


Oh no, this does not bode well! I shall definitely let you know whether or not I agree with you!

From Royal Rother '.....I thought this might be a thread about Sheila's Wheels.'



LesleyMP 24th August 2006 06:31 PM


Just had a swift look / listen here!!! Hysterical!

Do you mean the insurance, or the song on this album?


How on earth did we get from 'The Penelopiad' to here? This is what I call book discussion! :D


Royal Rother 24th August 2006 08:17 PM


Well, the pink car in the ad makes me think of Lady Penelope


katrina 25th August 2006 07:50 PM


I hate that ad, its almost as bad as that awful singing advert about some new gossip magazine


Flingo 26th August 2006 02:00 PM


The song is really good - but maybe not for listening to in the presence of your out-laws either! Whoops!


LesleyMP 26th August 2006 04:13 PM


Just finished 'The Penelopiad' and I have to say (sorry Stewart) that I realy enjoyed it. I agree with Katrina, it is a really easy read and I found it witty and entertaining. I shall give some other books from this series a go, definitely.


Have also just had another listen to the album recommended by Meg :) and I feel I can see some similarities between the descriptions of the 12 maids in 'The Penelopiad' with the hardy lasses described in the song 'Northern Birds'. I wonder if anyone else agrees? Maybe I should start a new discussion thread...


megustaleer 26th August 2006 10:20 PM

Originally Posted by LesleyMP

Have also just had another listen to the album recommended by Meg


I'd just like to point out that I didn't actually recommend the album, I just pointed you towards it because I had (coincidentally) seen it linked to on another message board.

LesleyMP 27th August 2006 12:56 AM


'Recommend' is overstating it a bit - sorry Meg! But thank you for the link :)

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  • 1 year later...

I have just finished The Penelopiad, and have been musing on the similarly 'updated' version of Medea by Christa Wolf, published seven years earlier, and which I read coming up to two years ago ( thread here ).

This is an easier read than that was, and is somehow lighthearted in spite of the rape of her twelve maids by Penelope's suitors, and their subsequent murder by her son on the orders of her husband Odysseus - returned after 20 years absence.


Penelope's version of the myth is that she had remained faithful to Odysseus for all those years, in spite of rumours of his many infidelities, and in the face of pressure from 100 suitors who wished to take his place (and the rich dowry that came with Penelope). Her twelve favourite maids were her spies among the suitors, but this was secret, so that when the disguised Odysseus returned home and found all the suitors making free with his property, apparently with the connivance of the maids, he meted out summary retribution before Penelope could tell her version of events.


The book is told in three 'voices'. The first is Penelope speaking from Hades, in the 'present'. I found that the least successful part. The conflict between the disembodied spirits/shades of the inhabitants of Hades, and their physical activities like eating, & walking about jarred with my sense of the rational. Of course, I might not have noticed if Penelope had not drawn the reader's attention to it.


The second voice is Penelope again, but this time recounting her version of her life from her childhood to Oddysseus's return, and is quite straightforward.


The third voice is that of the twelve maids, who perform the rôle of Greek Chorus to the ongoing drama. This is done in a variety of styles, and my absolute favourite chapter of the book is their account of the adventures of Oddysseus sung as a 'Sea Shanty'.


Having remembered reading Wolf's version of Medea I looked it up in Fantastic Fiction, and was interested to note that Margaret Atwood wrote an introduction to it. Unfortunately I had been loaned the book so I can't reread the intro, but am left wondering if the seed of an idea for The Penelopiad was planted back then?

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