The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood is a retelling of the story of Penelope and her 12 maids. Penelope is the wife of Odysseus, and the daughter of Icarus and a water nymph. Penelope is dead when the story begins, she talks directly to the reader recounting her life. 12 maids act as a Greek chorus chiming in at times and sharing their own stories.
Circe is a nymph, a Lesser Goddess. She is the daughter of Helios, but the other gods do not believe she is powerful. They think she is weird because she has a human’s voice, and she also lacks the eyes of the gods. She is called Pharmika or witch because she can transform people into whatever she believes their true form to be. She transforms Glaucos into a god so they could be lovers but as soon as he is transformed, he ignores her and chases after another nymph named Scylla. Circe is heartbroken and decides to reveal her inner ugliness by transforming her into a hideous beast with six heads. Scylla retreats to the ocean where she lives in a cave by a straight with a powerful whirlpool called Charybdis. Circe is horrified when Hermes tells her that she sits in her trap eating the sailors. The other gods do not understand her powers because she is the only one capable of doing this. They banished her to an Island called Aiaia where she practices and becomes more confident in her abilities. In the beginning of the book Circe states that although she is very old compared to a human’s life, she was not truly living. Later when she is on Aiaia she states, “I stepped into those woods and my life began.” I think its interesting to see her grow, as she learns of the true power she possesses, from a naive “young” girl to a powerful enchantress. I am finding this book fascinating. It’s a lot of fun to read, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Read More about Circe in Mythology Here
Also Read about the Author Madeline Miller
In “The Lost Books of The Odyssey” Zachary Mason the author, retells the ancient Greek epic The Odyssey. The book is composed of many small stories, each exciting and very different from each other. The first few chapters are different imagined homecoming scenarios that Odysseus is playing out in his head. Mason then tells of Odysseus’s adventures. Mason’s Odysseus is an intriguing character. He is clever, witty, and confident. Nonetheless Odysseus is a mortal man, we are shown how he is able to resist the god Athena, but still fall to the powers of the sirens.
Read about the author
Read more about the Lost Books of The Odyssey
In House of Names by Colm Toibin, Toibin retells the story of the Oresteia. However, In the book we get to see what the characters are really thinking, and we learn more about why they do what they do. In the first part of the book, we are reintroduced to Clytemnestra, but instead of being a mysterious character, like she is in the Oresteia, we hear her voice and can more easily understand her hatred for her husband Agamemnon. We see her struggle to save her daughter’s life and ultimately failing to do so. She begins blaming herself for not being able to save her. She is then taken away and held under a boulder unable to move. This is where her hatred of Agamemnon grows. I believe this was the moment that sealed his fate. Clytemnestra laying in her own waste as her daughter is slaughtered decides she must take justice into her own hands. We can also understand why Electra and Orestes blame their mother. Because they don’t talk to each other, Electra’s anger grows and becomes directed at her mother. We see how this is beginning to escalate into hatred. Toibin helps clear up for us why the events that took place in the Oresteia came to be.
To read more about the author, visit Colm Toibins own website here.
Also to learn more Toibin's about the reimagining of the ancient story visit this analysis by inews.
Cassandra is a Trojan priestess who is living during the time of the Trojan war. She was cursed by Apollo with the ability to see the future, but nobody would listen to her. She was kidnapped by Agamemnon after he conquered Troy. However, Cassandra being a “seer” know she is being brought to her death, she knows about Clytemnestra’s plot to murder her husband as well as herself. Throughout the book Cassandra battles with the fact that she is going to die. She relives all of her most important memories in her head, from the times of her youth sitting on her father’s lap, to her time spent as a priestess of Apollo, all the way to the time she is sitting in a chariot right before her death. Being a woman living in the patriarchal dominated of ancient Greece, Cassandra also struggles with her standing in society. She questions whether or not she truly ever had a say in anything.
Author Christa Wolf from east Germany wrote Cassandra in 1983. Read more about her here.
John Maler Collier (1850–1934), "Clytemnestra," 1882
Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan (1898, London); Cassandra in front of the burning city of Troy