Sunday, April 22, 2012

BW 17: Reimagine the Iliad and Odyssey

On my bucket list of books to read during my life as well as one of the books listed on Susan Wise Bauer's Well Educated Mind, is Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.  The books sit on our shelves gathering dust and one day I'll attempt them.  Maybe a challenge and goal for us for next year - Hmm!   I have a tendency to read more modern books, but also enjoy stories that retell the story.   So I was totally thrilled when my latest Bookmark's magazine came in highlighting stories that re-imagine the Iliad and the Odyssey.  More authors and books to add to my wishlist and now yours.  *grin*

Random by David Malouf
Synopsis: " David Malouf shines new light on Homer’s ILIAD, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant.In this exquisite gem of a novel, Achilles is maddened by grief at the death of his friend Patroclus. From the walls of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son, Hector, being dragged behind Achilles’ chariot. There must be a way, he thinks, of reclaiming the body - of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against the old, and of forcing the hand of fate. Dressed simply and in a cart pulled by a mule, an old man sets off for the Greek camp ...Lyrical, immediate and heartbreaking Malouf’s fable engraves the epic themes of the Trojan war onto a perfect miniature - themes of war and heroics, hubris and humanity, chance and fate, the bonds between soldiers, fathers and sons, all newly burnished and brilliantly recast for our times."

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s Foreword to The Penelopiad:   “Homer’s Odyssey is not the only version of the story. Mythic material was originally oral, and also local -- a myth would be told one way in one place and quite differently in another. I have drawn on material other than the Odyssey, especially for the details of Penelope’s parentage, her early life and marriage, and the scandalous rumors circulating about her. I’ve chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus, which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of the Odyssey: What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in the Odyssey doesn’t hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I’ve always been haunted by the hanged maids and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself.”

Lavinia by Ursula LeGuin

Book Synopsis: "Troy has fallen. Rome is a tiny village by the seven hills... At the end of Vergil’s epic poem The Aeneid, the Trojan hero Aeneas, following his destiny, is about to marry the Italian girl Lavinia. But in the poem, she has played only the slightest part, and has never spoken a word.  Daughter of a local king, Lavinia has lived in peace and freedom, till suitors came seeking her hand, and a foreign fleet sailed up the Tiber. Now her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus, but strange omens, prophecies spoken by the voices of the sacred trees and springs, foretell that she must marry a stranger. And that she will be the cause of a bitter war. And that her husband will not live long. Lavinia is determined to follow her own destiny. And when she talks with the spirit of the poet in the sacred grove, she begins to see that destiny. So she gains her own voice, learning how to tell the story Vergil left untold — her story, her life, and the love of her life.

Helen of Troy by Margaret George
 Author Description: "Margaret George breathes new life into the great Homeric tale by having Helen narrate her own story. Through her eyes and in her voice, we experience the young Helen’s discovery of her divine origin and her terrifying beauty. While hardly more than a girl, Helen married the remote Spartan king Menelaus and bore him a daughter. By the age of twenty, the world’s most beautiful woman was resigned to a passionless marriage—until she encountered the handsome Trojan prince Paris. And once the lovers flee to Troy, war, murder, and tragedy become inevitable."

Please share some authors and/or books you've discovered that tell the story in a different way or bring to life the characters of old.


Happy Birthday to Authors

Janet Evanovich - April 22
Sue Grafton - April 24 
Deborah Chester - April 25 
Lisa Unger - April 26 
Rebecca York - April 27
Harper Lee - April 28
Alistair MacLean - April 28
Terry Pratchett - April 28
Ian Rankin - April 28 
  Violet Winspear - April 28

Read one of their books in their honor!

Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you have multiple reviews, then type in (multi) after your name and link to your general blog url.

If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.


  1. Love the Iliad and Odyssey! The Teaching Company has a wonderful teaching series on them. It really helped me understand and enjoy them. I used them when I homeschooled my youngest and his friends. They all enjoyed reading them with the help of those DVD's!

    I had a good book (Diary of Anne Frank) and bad book (The Bluest Eye) week!

  2. Do you know about the Canongate Myths series? It is "a series of short novels in which ancient myths from myriad cultures are reimagined and rewritten by contemporary authors" (Goodreads). The Penelopiad (mentioned above) is one of the Canongate books. One of my projects for the summer is to tackle the entire stack :)

  3. I've read most of the Illiad and Odyssey. But, I do also love modern retellings. I'll have to check these out!

  4. Finished book #20 - The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer. I'm enjoying working through her books - most of which are saved to my Nook!

  5. Finished up The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue last week. I got a bit behind when I had the flu the week before! But I'm back on track now

  6. How about The Children's Homer? It's very good.

    As for the actual story, the translator makes a huge difference, we found this fall. One modern translation was so gruesome I just closed the book; another version was much, much better. My son is studying these books with the Omnibus by Veritas Press, but Leithart also has a book about ancient lit. Both are recommended.

  7. Just finished Nobody's Safe by Richard Steinberg.

    Finished three on Saturday for Dewey's Read-a-Thon plus seven others since I last commented :D

  8. As One Devil to Another is a modern take on The Screwtape Letters. I'm hosting a giveaway too.

  9. My reading's kind of light-weight compared to The Iliad and The Odyssey!


Thank you for your kind comments.