Inspirational female authors: Margaret Atwood

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to read more? Why not get some inspiration from our monthly reviews of inspirational female authors. We have been reviewing a book by a female writer (nearly!) every month since International Women’s Day in March last year. For January, I have chosen The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad is a reimagining of The Odyssey, but instead of following the adventures of Odysseus, it is told from the perspective of Penelope, his wife. It is part of the Canongate Myth Series, where ancient myths were rewritten by a selection of contemporary authors.

Margaret Atwood chooses to retell the classic story from a female perspective and she creates a complex character in Penelope, who is more than the dutiful wife portrayed in the original. She also gives a voice to the mysterious twelve maids, who are killed by Odysseus when he finally returns from his voyage. In this version, the maids tell their tale as part of a chorus which interrupts the story with songs, children’s rhymes, an academic lecture and even a court trial.

I loved this retelling of the classic myth and in particular the way in which the maids tell their side of the story, which is fresh and unique. As is typical of a Margaret Atwood novel, it is intelligent but also funny, and that odd mix of disturbing but also engaging.

Come back in February for our penultimate review of an inspirational female author.

Philippa, Brompton Library