Here are five fantastic books that explore some classic Greek tales many of us know, touching upon many centralized themes of classic Greek mythology but in unexpected and innovative ways. All are an illuminating read!
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
This fine rendition of a classic tale, the Odyssey by Homer, rejects the standard canon and explores Penelope’s story through her voice and the song of her twelve murdered maidens. Atwood draws upon extant sources to create her story, drawing out the inconsistencies of a story that would originally have been told orally thus showcasing the myriad interpretations that can arise from a single story. Mysterious and intriguing, this tale is a must read for anyone interested in the Odyssey.
Circe by Madeline Miller
In an absolutely captivating retelling, Miller draws the reader into an utterly magical tale narrated by Circe herself. After being banished by her vengeful father, Helios, Circe finds herself struggling between the choice of aligning herself with the gods and goddesses of her extensive and deeply twisted family and the allure of mortals. This reimagined story is impossible to put down as it elicits a newfound sympathy of a maligned classic character.
House of Names by Colm Toibin
This story of the dysfunctional and tragic Atreids begins with Clytemnestra’s narration thereby immediately imbuing it with a fresh twist. We also hear from other originally marginalized voices: Iphigenia, Electra and Orestes, as each narrate their stories which compel them headlong into the ultimate and terrible tragedies that continually plague this iconic family. Toibin is masterful with his ability to give voice to every Atreid character, exploring their fallible natures.
The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason
In beautifully poetic prose, this tale reinvents Odysseus’s journey home in this short and compelling book. Using extant sources and fragments, Mason posits that there were a variety of versions of the Odyssey before Homer’s. Most of the chapters are narrated via Odysseus but a rich and multifaceted version of Odysseus, a man we readers have never before met. Which gives rise to the question: who is the real Odysseus? That is for the reader to decide as they take a new and fascinating journey with this archetypal Andros.
Weight by Jeanette Winterson
“I want to tell a story again,” writes Winterson, as she begins this utterly captivating, deeply poetic exploration of what it means to carry the weight of the world on one’s shoulder, as did Atlas, and the ramifications of being the world’s greatest hero, Herakles. Illuminating the flaws and inconsistencies of these mythological characters, Winterson equates what it means for humans to share these traits with profound insight and pathos. It explores loneliness, the burden of responsibility and what it means to be free. This little book is full of wit, humour and humility and an absolute delight to read.
~ Posted by Tricia R.