Penelopiad, by Marget Atwood Rothdas book review RSS
4.0 Stars

There is a board-game reviewer that I like, and he says that the three most important qualities for a game are "pacing, pacing, and pacing". I don't think this entirely transfers to novels, but it mostly does, and I'd give "pacing" at least one of the top three spots for what makes a readable and enjoyable book. You can forgive a lot of things to a book that doesn't waste your time, that knows what it wants to say and says it. This is such a book, though there's not much to forgive here. Penelopiad is a short, semi-sweet, semi-black, somewhat ambiguous, highly creative re-imagining of the story of Odysseus from the perspective of his wife Penelope. It's quite possibly my favorite Atwood story and certainly the only one that I read in a single day. Atwood covers the obvious ground of how Penelope has a terrible situation in the Odyssey, but also adds in a cloud of other possibilities. She offers alternate versions for the events of Odysseus' journey, a potential relationship between Helen and Odysseus, and a number of different reasons why Penelope's maids might have been killed in the end. There are suggestions, not proofs, of what might have actually happened. The story also has a fair bit of structural creativity as the main narrative is interleaved with a Chorus that explores even more forms and viewpoints on the events. It's Nabakovian, but with the traditional Atwood themes of men's shittiness towards women as well as the ways in which women can be shitty to each other. And then the core of the book of course isn't really about Penelope at all, it's about these 12 nameless slave women who were killed for ambiguous, but guaranteed terrible reasons and then largely overlooked for 2500 years by just about everyone who read the story. It's a worthwhile core to build upon.