This year’s March bookshelf was filled with surprises (both pleasant and nasty), some disappointments, a cast of weird creatures and a bit of a song and dance. From dead semi-goddesses to talking war cats, from magicians travelling between worlds to plant-based alien TV executives, this is certainly a mixed bag of books. And mostly wonderful.
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
“It’s always an imprudence to step between a man and the reflection of his own cleverness.”
After reading this book I love Margaret Atwood more than ever. She basically takes Homer’s Iliad and lets Penelope tell her version from the underworld, thousands of years later, to set the record straight. Penelope’s down-to-earth, delightfully no-nonsense style is at the same time hilarious and tragic, describing her father’s attempt to drown her as a child, her arranged marriage, the long years of waiting for Odysseus and her loneliness among the hostile members of his court, the struggle of fighting off the suitors trying to wriggle their way into her husband’s, and earning nothing but suspicion and scorn for remaining faithful all these years. If you think Odysseus had a hard time, try being a woman in his story. A particularly morbid and wonderful device in Atwood’s storytelling is the chorus line of Penelope’s twelve dead teenage maids, who were cruelly murdered for no apparent reason after Odysseus’ return, and share their version of events here in a number of interludes, from mournful poems to naughty songs and anthropological lectures analysing their own significance. Basically, this is a wickedly clever celebration of feminism and womanhood told by the master of her genre with a ton of wit and soul.
Pens: ELEVEN out of 5!