Books, Travels

The Penelopiad

Woo! First #travelreads post!

Only recently have I begun to discover the literary delights of Margaret Atwood. It wasn’t until a guest lecturer at University mentioned The Penelopiad whilst we were covering Epic Poetry, that I even really registered her name.

In the past, I’ve studied classic Greek/Italian civilisations and am well aware of Homer’s The Odyssey: the meandering tale of Odysseus’s long voyage back to his home, Ithaca, and his wife, Penelope, following the Trojan war. But all I could really recall of Penelope’s story was the army of suitors that harassed her and that she kept them at bay by weaving a shroud which she unravelled every night, not choosing a new husband until its completion.

In The Penelopiad, Atwood delves far deeper into Penelope’s history presenting a fascinating and unexpected retelling of her whilst shedding a completely different light on the classic tale as a whole.

This book made a perfect travel companion as I journeyed south from the UK all the way to Italy. The feminist tones to the book are really engaging and intense yet not too aggressive, the inherent injustice toward the female characters speaks for itself without Atwood forcing it to. It makes me want to hashtag #girlpower.

The book’s setting got me very excited for my Mediterranean destination, even if it wasn’t quite Greece, Italy is about as close as it gets.

Thumbing through The Penelopiad on top of Gaisberg, Austria. (While I wait patiently for my pilots to rig their gliders)

If you are new to epic poetry, The Penelopiad is a great way to experience the genre in a fresh, modern way. However, I would suggest reading The Odyssey (or at least googling the synopsis) first, else much of the wit and clever nuances of the book may be lost on you.

The picture below is from my first morning in Italy, in a hill-top villa near Sigillo, in Umbria. It’s the location where I finished this book. The book only has around two hundred pages so it is ideal for those trips where you don’t think you are actually going to get a lot of reading time. Or, if you want something you can read on the plane and actually finish, this is the book for you!

Especially if your destination is Greece!

Bon Giorno Sigillo, Italia!

If you are wondering where else you’ve heard Margaret Atwood’s name recently, you’ve probably seen or heard of the recent MGM Television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the Atwood novel of the same name.

Next on the related reading list for me, another perspective on The Odyssey James Joyce’s Ulysses (wish me luck) and another Margaret Atwood, Lady Oracle, in which the protagonist eventually ends up in Italy – it’s fate!

Check out a preview version of The Penelopiad on Amazon, by clicking the book below!

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