Skip to content

The Penelopiad


Margaret Atwood is among those authors which I don’t have to guess twice before buying one of their books. I don’t care what it is about, I will get a copy and read it. You can imagine how enthusiastic I was the day I found out that Atwood had written a Greek mythology retelling. I was out of myself, I couldn’t wait to put my hands on it (which took a while because there are so many nice editions of this book and I couldn’t decide which one to get).


"The Penelopiad" and other retellings
“The Penelopiad” and other retellings


I read The Penelopiad in one sitting, something that is rare for me. Penelope is not my cup of tea (neither Odysseus if I have to be honest), but Atwood made me change my mind. In this book, she is a smart-ass and unapologetic woman whose story has been compromised by the male gaze (what a surprise!) throughout history. Atwood not only gives her a voice but Penelope transforms into something real, freeing herself from the role model she has always represented.

But there is more!

Side by side with the story of Penelope, another chapter of the Odyssey unveils, the tragic tale of the hunged maids. For those who are not familiar with this particular detail of the story, you only need to know that Odysseus, once back from his long long long time away, not only kills the men who were trying to steal his crown and his wife but the slaves who were sleeping with those men. Atwood does a wonderful job retelling their story not only from Penelope’s point of view but coming from their voices. The maids take the role of the Chorus which, in the Greek theatre, was the voice of common sense and knowledge. Their story is a collage of songs, theatre, soap opera and more. Atwood manages to maintain the balance between drama, sarcasm and anger in the most beautiful way.



Odysseus returning to Penelope, Melian, CA. 460–450 B.C., Terracotta
Odysseus returning to Penelope, Melian, CA. 460–450 B.C., Terracotta


I had read many bad reviews about this book which (after a few minutes of pure rage against everyone who would dare to say something negative about this book) I can understand. This is not a book for everyone. If you are not familiar with the Odyssey and Greek mythology in general, you will struggle to understand how cleverly constructed this book is. Also, you will miss the many easter eggs Atwood has hidden into the story. I would reccommend reading The Penelopiad as a companion to the Homeric poems (yes, read the Iliad as well). This book is definitely in my top 5 Greek mythology retelling!

What did you guys think? Do you agree to this agree with me?




Published inBlog: retelling and reimagening

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *