The Odyssey

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Odyssey
by Homer

After the ten-year Trojan War ends the warriors return to their home lands. Odysseus’ journey is longer than most because he has angered Poseidon. He runs into one obstacle after another as he fights to return to his wife and son. He fights a Cyclops, travels to the land of the dead, narrowly misses the call of the sirens and spends years trapped on Calypso's island. When he finally returns to Ithaca his home is filled with suitors attempting to woo his wife.  

I first read The Odyssey in high school, rereading it a decade later was a very different experience. This time I paid much more attention to Penelope’s story. She is such an incredible character. Her loyalty and patience is remarkable. Even though her husband has been gone for 20 years she still holds out that he is alive and will return to her. It made me wonder how long someone would wait nowadays. Obviously there were fewer communication options back then, but still a couple decades is a long time to hang on to hope.

Penelope is surrounded by suitors and keeps them at bay by telling them she’ll consider them once she finishes what she’s weaving. She weaves all day and then at night she undoes everything she’s woven. Margaret Atwood wrote an interesting novella about her story, The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus.

I enjoyed his son Telemachus’ journey. When his father leaves he is only a baby, but he’s grown to become a man in Odysseus’ absence and he longs to find his father. He isn’t sure if he should search for his father or stay and protect his mother, it’s a difficult decision.

For me, it’s important that Odysseus is not a god. He is just a mortal man. So many of the stories in Greek literature are about the gods or demigods. Odysseus is neither, he occasionally has help from the gods, like Athena, at other times he is persecuted by the gods, especially Poseidon, but he has none of their powers. He must rely on his intelligence and cunning to outsmart his captors.

BOTTOM LINE: An absolute must for classic lovers. It’s also one of the most accessible pieces of Greek literature and a gateway drug into that world.

p.s. This time around I listened to the Robert Fagles translation on audio and it was read by the magnificent Ian McKellen. I would highly recommend it!

I reread this as part of the readalong hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey

Also, in the book they climb Mount Parnassus. I’m even more excited to visit the Parnassus bookstore in Nashville next month!

Nikki at Book Pairings posted on this book today too!


Nikki Steele @ said...

Woah! I reviewed this one today as well, by coincidence. I'm adding your link to my post, because you give a GREAT overview of the book and review.

I think Penelope is my favorite character too. She's just as tricky as Odysseus is, just in the home environment where she's stuck. I wonder how she would have dealt with the entanglements that Odysseus gets himself into?

Care said...

I have a friend who is reading this (not a blogger so it struck me so unusual... ha!) and I have been curious to read this since I enjoyed the Song of Achilles so much. Now you've convinced me that audio is the way to go.

Andi said...

I've read this one three times, and I have genuinely enjoyed it, though I don't know that I'll make it a 4th time through anytime soon. I do have an inkling to read The Iliad, though. I've never read more than excerpts, and reading The Song of Achilles has gotten me interested.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - I can't believe we both posted on this today! I'm going to add your link in as well.

Care - Audio works well for this one because the language is so beautiful.

Andi - I read The Iliad last year and was so surprised that the Trojan Horses wasn't in it at all! I loved The Song of Achilles.

Brona said...

Okay you guys have got me inspired to get over the hump of this book. (I've been stuck in the isle of the dead for a couple of weeks!)

Although my other problem right now is Austen in August! Too many books I'm trying to finish at once.

I also like the side of the audio. I had the pleasure of listening to Daniel Morden retell The Odyssey at the Sydney Writer's Festival earlier this was a wonderful way to expereince the story.

Melissa on a personal you are planning a trip to Sydney you might also like to visit my other blog which tends to be photographic in nature and mostly of Sydney
Four Seasons of Brona

Brona said...

* sound
I haven't had my morning coffee yet :-)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brona - Thanks for the link to your blog! I love following your photos on Instagram. What a treat to see a live performance of The Odyssey!