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Publisher's Summary

In Homer's account in The Odyssey, Penelope - wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy - is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for 20 years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumours, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously.
When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and - curiously - 12 of her maids.
In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her 12 hanged maids, asking, "What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?"
In Atwood's dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality - and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.
©2005 Margaret Atwood (P)2005 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By sioux on 01-02-12

Atwood- but not at her best

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Atwood can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. Her genius is such that I'm not sure that she's really one person. Each of her novels belongs to entirely different genres and her voice can be male, female, old, young, and even not entirely human. I suspect that it may one day be revealed that she is in fact the owner of a bizarre novel-producing labour camp that enslaves writers to produce histories, romances, science-fictions and most every other kind of novel. The real question is how she manages to find and keep such a range of incredibly talented authors producing such wonderfully enjoyable tales.

Having said this, I found the Penelopiad to be not-her-best work. I love the idea of a feminist retelling of Homer's Greek epic. I think she was true to the style and I have no doubt that someone who knows more than my smidgen of Iliad and Odyssey would enjoy multiple references that passed me by. But this novel failed to mesmerise me in the way every other Atwood novel has done. I admired it and enjoyed it but I wasn't enthralled by it.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

I think this would, if anything, make for a better movie than a book. The fantastic gods, the wild adventures - they would really lend themselves to the big screen.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Elizabeth Weingarten on 08-27-08


Read well but the book seems rather inconsequential. Certainly not the typical Atwood book. More like an exercise of some sort.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Jane on 05-20-10

The Penelopiad

Very funny and cleverly done in the style of a Greek Tragedy - typical smart stuff from Margaret Atwood

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5 out of 5 stars
By KAREN on 03-10-10


This is an outstanding book by an outstanding author but the narration really adds something to it, especially the songs and rhymes.

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