The Penelopaid by Margaret Atwood (Book Review)

Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, a woman who remained at home, faithful, awaiting the return of her hero husband. With no word from him, suitors come for her, wanting to take her as their wife and to take over the kingdom. When Odysseus finally returns after twenty years, he kills all the suitors and twelve of her maids. Attwood flips this story, telling it from Penelope’s perspective, with the dead maids as a Greek chorus.

It’s wonderful. It challenges the telling of these myths, always told from a patriarchal perspective. I recently saw the wonderful Lorelei by Victorian Opera, and that had a similar energy. Were the women in these stories always destined to play a certain role? What happens when modern writers challenge this? Does it destroy the myths, or give them a new depth? I love it.

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