The Penelopiad Review

 

 

The Penelopiad

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GoodReads:
Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.
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 twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, 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—twelve 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 twelve 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 story-telling 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.

Purchase Links

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**The links to the book used in this post are Affiliated links, should you click on my links and use them to purchase this book, it will gain me some monies, and will cost you nothing, but gotta disclose this first.**

 

My Review

Canongate feeds my addiction to their Canon myths, and I couldn’t be happier with my dealer of choice lolol.

But honestly, I do love fiction like this, where it’s quiet, where it demands attention to every page, and it reworks an idea that people haven’t dared to touch in centuries. Not to say there haven’t been adaptations of The Odyssey but this was my first read of one and I was so delighted that this was focused on Penelope.

She was held to such a high standard in some myths, the epitome of what a wife should be. But she was also seen in another light as someone who was unfaithful to her husband, and ‘evil’ for it. [Despite the fact that we know that man was the definition of like a man-slut. But hey, double standards…FUCK THE PATRIARCHY, okay back to my review]

Atwood is a fantastic author, I have always admired her, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is such a provocative and important read to me personally, and so I knew she would do this story justice.

It’s not about the plot, it’s not about action or really the Odyssey, this is about Penelope, her background, her life as the wife of someone who was so admired, and what her presence faces in consequence of it all.

Atwood knocks it out of the park with her take of Penelope and the twelve maids who serve as the traditional Greek chorus interspersed throughout the novel.

Penelope is able to speak freely which is representative of our more modern times [well how it should be, but I’ll get off my soapbox] she’s able to present to us how things were seen through such a male perspective and how this cost twelve maids their lives. But she’s not entirely free of persecution in this, she must ‘live’ with her own guilt.

The story is short but it’s a languid read, you don’t have to rush through it, you can take your time on the story, and reflect in what Penelope is laying out our feet.

I adored this, and because of its slow pacing and the fact that the drive and focus of this is just Penelope being able to tell us her side of things, it’s not a novel with a particular plot.

I loved it, it was amazing for me, not for everyone, but amazing for me nonetheless and I gave it four huge cups of hot chocolate. Thank you to Canongate for the copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Buddha Da Review

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GoodReads:
Anne Marie’s dad, a Glaswegian painter and decorator, has always been game for a laugh. So when he first takes up meditation at the Buddhist Center, no one takes him seriously. But as Jimmy becomes more involved in a search for the spiritual, his beliefs start to come into conflict with the needs of his wife, Liz. Cracks appear in their apparently happy family life, and the ensuing events change the lives of each family member.

My Review

Reading the synopsis I was intrigued by Buddha Da and I felt the need to see what exactly made up this book. Was it a book of spiritual growth? Was it more like the Glaswegian Eat, Pray, Love? Or was I about to find myself learning more about Buddhism than ever before? [And to be frank, it wouldn’t be that hard, my knowledge of it is minimal]

I can happily say it was a little of all of that and completely different than I expected, all rolled into one.

The story swivels from three POVs of the family members, Jimmy our Buddha Da, Liz his wife, and Anne Marie his daughter.  But the POVs do tend to stick more with Liz and Anne Marie.

Jimmy has felt a need to change something in him, and at first, all he thinks is that he is enjoying a bit of meditation, a man notorious for never finishing his projects, no one imagined he would take Buddhism to heart so much more than anything else. However, he’s met by resistance from his wife as he goes deeper into a world she can’t follow, her own journey is on a different path.

This isn’t just a book about the division of a family, and it’s not that Buddhism is the cause of it, it’s how people so often can change and sometimes it’s necessary to make a few mistakes along the way to do so. It’s a coming of age story of Anne Marie, it’s a spiritual journey for Jimmy, and it’s a journey to desires of the heart and mind for Liz.

I really loved this book and it made me quite the sentimentalist while reading it, and I can honestly say I love how the characters all had to find out their own truths without anyone giving them answers. The ending was perfect and I enjoyed reading this so much I knocked it out in a day.

If you’re a fan of books all about personal journeys and don’t have a problem with understanding Glaswegian speak [ 😉 ] then I recommend this book to you!

Four cups of coffee from me! This new paperback edition is stunning as well so doesn’t hurt to have a pretty book inside & out.

Thank you to Canongate Books for sending me a copy to read and review in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Dream Angus


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GoodReads:

Part of a series of books containing myths as retold by first-rank contemporary authors, this is Alexander McCall Smith’s telling of the Celtic myth of Dream Angus, a god of love, youth, beauty, and also the bringer of dreams. He is cherished by all, but fated to love only Caér, the swan maiden from his own dreams. Smith spins five charming stories of Dream Angus with five tales of his modern alter egos.

“…what is life but the pursuit of dreams?”

Thank you to Canongate Books for sending me a copy of this, I was so excited as I love takes on mythology.

[So excited in fact that my email said Revew Request in my haste to type. Let that sink in. Revew. I’m still mortified.]

Admittedly I’ve never read any of Alexander McCall Smith’s works before, I’d heard of him and had been interested but just hadn’t gotten around to it until now.

Dream Angus gives us an interwoven work of short stories that spans the ages to give us a more modern day retelling of the Celtic God of Dreams, Angus.

One thing that impressed me from the start is rarely do a read an introduction unless it’s an academic work, if it catches my eye I will and McCall Smith’s intro was actually very enjoyable to read. It’s hard to know how to introduce your own work when you’re tackling legends and myths and we all know many authors do it well, but it’s still always nice to know that even the prolific authors understand the delicate work they’re doing.

Onto the real meat of the book however I have to say this is just one of those books you read in an almost dreamy manner -no pun intended- it is something to be read as an experience rather than trying to just gobble it up, devour it, and analyze it. That comes later. Half jk.

Rather than trying to give an epic tale, threaded through various times and places are the stories of the small and wondrous gifts bestowed on people by the dreams and powers of Angus, there is love, there is peace, and of course most importantly there are the dreams.

My favorite parts were actually the tale of how Angus came to be, and how he confronted his Father eventually. [Would say more, but, spoilers!] There’s just always something about a good origins story to me.

This is a rather languid and flowery work, it’s not meant for those looking for a clear cut collection of short stories and/or a Michael Bay version of mythology.

Anyway, if you’re into a rather thought provoking novel that’s a leisurely [and rather short] read, I highly recommend Dream Angus to you. Don’t forget The Canons has a whole series of books done by well known authors, ‘The Myths’ and it includes works by Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt, and Philip Pullman as well!

“But Angus does more than that: he represents youth and the intense, passionate love that we might experience when we are young but which we might still try to remember as age creeps up. Age and experience might make us sombre and cautious, but there is always an Angus within us- Angus the dreamer.”

-Alexander McCall Smith, 2006